The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You

Catapult. Sept. 2019. 336p. notes. ISBN 9781948226424. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781948226431. MEMOIR
In this evocative memoir, novelist Nayeri (Refuge) encourages readers to look beyond a simplistic understanding of the lives of refugees, candidly sharing her life story, beginning with her childhood in Iran, her years in an Italian refugee camp, and her life in the present day. Throughout, Nayeri interweaves stories of current and former refugees, gathered while investigating the modern-day process of seeking asylum. The author’s background as a fiction writer informs this readable and relatable presentation of difficult topics, but don’t expect any sugarcoating—Nayeri is unflinching when it comes to the realities of refugee life. The larger notion of the refugee story is considered, and Nayeri deftly explores the balance between truth and storytelling when it comes to the expectations of both the telling and the hearing of these accounts. She helps us see beyond a person’s citizenship status to recognize their humanity, most affectingly questioning whether it’s necessary to remove a person’s dignity in order to help them.
VERDICT A much-needed exploration of the refugee experience; Nayeri’s writing will be welcomed by a wide audience. [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/19.]

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