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The Ungrateful Refugee

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,627 ratings  ·  557 reviews
A Finalist for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction

"Nayeri combines her own experience with those of refugees she meets as an adult, telling their stories with tenderness and reverence.” ―The New York Times Book Review

"Nayeri weaves her empowering personal story with those of the ‘feared swarms’ . . . Her family’s escape from Isfahan to Oklahoma, which involved waiting in D
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Catapult
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  3,627 ratings  ·  557 reviews

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Elyse Walters
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy moly...
wow wow wow!!!!
but I’m not exactly on the same page with Dina on everything.

I listened to this book from the wonders of Hoopla...
...reminded by just how far technology has come... in supporting instant availability in reading a book ( or listening in this case)...
The author’s ‘voice’ - her intensity of emotions -
was the very first thing I noticed.
Her RAGE was what I noticed.
There was an urgency in her voice that propelled me to keep listening t
Diane S ☔
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
Dina was right years old when she, her brother and mother fled Iran. As a Christian convert, her mother was spreading pamphlets around the country, an act that brought death threats from the morality authorities. They became refugees.

Told in alternating chapters, Dina chronicles her family's struggles as refugees, with interviews taken later at a camp in Greece. She writes honestly, and with unflinching candor. Highlighting government bureaucracies, stories refugees must tell to be granted asylu
Jenna is buying a house and mostly too busy for GR ❤ ❀  ❤
"You never forget the moment you were part of a shivering horde, when another human threw you your food, when you slept in mud alongside your confused children, when you shoved and grunted beside other faceless people, some of them former architects, doctors, teachers. It can break your spirit as fast as hunger."

I simply cannot imagine what it is like to be forced to leave your country, the only home you've ever known, the place you grew up and that nourished your soul. To leave behind all t
I'm very torn on what rating to give this book. On the one hand, some parts of it are so beautifully written that it should be praised to the rooftops. On the other, it rambles about and loses its sense of direction far more often than I liked.

I found the concept of the 'ungrateful' refugee very compelling. Why should the West treat immigrants as if they somehow hit the jackpot when they arrive in a nice 'safe-ish' democracy and we lock them up in detainment camps and assume everything they tel
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
An electrifying essential read. Nayeri describes the West as “as a mother who once adopted us, the exiles and outcasts, and now needs us to intervene as calluses harden fast around her heart.” This is her story as well as the story of the many. She sets out to volunteer on Lesbos and finds the stories of the people there bring her past tumbling back. While working in a “store” handing out donations she encounters the rotten attitude of those who will only give to the worthy poor. Those that dese ...more
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
On sale today for $1.99. Under an administration that seems to take great pride in outdoing each other in terms of racial dogwhistling and enabling white supremacists in their attacks on people of color, this seems like a must-read for many Americans. The way we treat refugees and asylum-seekers in this country is truly disgusting.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book blew me away. Nayeri combines her personal experience and the larger political situation and experiences of refugees in the world at present. She visits detention camps, talks with people trying to find asylum (fleeing from unbearable situations that people from other cultures cannot--and often do not try to--understand.

Although I thought I had some knowledge of this current crisis, Nayeri's book made me aware of just how superficial that knowledge is. She also made me examine my own a
Robert Sheard
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
I had a mixed experience with this. The journalistic parts about others' refugee stories were powerful and engaging. The sections on her own refugee experience and her feelings about that experience today were a little less engaging for me. Her reactions to her grandmother's experience, and then to her mother's attitude, and then in the very end, her half-sister's wishes, seem very much reminiscent of the views she condemns throughout the book in others. I think this might have worked well as tw ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The title got my interest especially as I know a little bit of the author's backstory and had read other works by her. I was intrigued to read what she had to say, especially in light of the ongoing conversation of refugees seeking a better life, safety and hope for the future.

The author lays out her own journey from being a refugee to living in a new life in an unfamiliar and strange land that is not at all like what the media might have portrayed it as. Interwoven are also the stories of other
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I LOVED Dina Nayeri's novel, Refugee, and I bought a copy for everyone I know. It was just so beautiful. This is sort of a memoir, but it's really not. If it had been a polemic, a memoir, or an analysis of the refugee experience, I think it would have been a clearer a story. The book is a series of interviews with refugees and then bits of memoir and then her observations on refugee life. I couldn't figure out who the audience was. I loved the memoir portions because I relate to them completely, ...more
Ayala Levinger
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
another MUST READ book about European immigration policies, refugees camps and about how dutch immigration treat refugees and asylum applicants😩
It is a MUST READ for everyone living in a western country, who hear politicians dehumanizing people who happened to become refugees, who give teddy bears for refugees in Greece. The story of Kambiz Roustayi is heartbreaking in its ununiqueness💔
Nov 12, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
A powerful dissection of the refugee journey by someone who trod the same path and who keeps returning to it like a punch-drunk boxer, to help others along its tenuous passage to the promised land.

Dina Nayeri left Iran at the age of eight in 1989, along with her PhD-qualified mother and younger brother; she lived for a while in Dubai on an expired tourist visa, then moved to Italy as a refugee, and finally settled in the USA. Her life story is episodic, some incidents are pulled from memory and
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a book that really grappled with the refugee and asylum seeker experience, from someone who has lived this experience first hand and has worked with those in the process. There is lots to unpack in what this book covers, and I think for that reason this would be a wonderful choice for a book club read. For me, one thing that particularly stood out was the discussion about language in both the way people are described, and the way in which people need to wield it to navigate the process. ...more
daria ❀
Mar 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
in honor of nowruz (aka the persian new year), i went ahead and recommended this and many other persian reads here: https://youtu.be/Ipjcp_e0fOU ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
4.5 stars

This is an excellent work, combining the author’s memoir with stories of other refugees and reflections on refugees’ treatment and the difficulties of immigration. The prose style is strong and polished, the stories compelling, and the topic timely and important.

Dina Nayeri was born in Iran, to a privileged life in which both parents were doctors. Her family was complicated—as I suspect most families are if you dig into them—and when Nayeri was a child, her mother converted to Christian
Oct 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: dina-nayeri
I was torn on what rating to give to this story.
I will share a few things that made me give it three stars instead of four.

Listening to the audio-book narrated by the author is always a great way to get the proper emotion from a book. I felt Dina Nayeri's passion and concern as she tells her story. Dina seemed to initially be comfortable with who she was, until other kids (who can be really mean) gave her reason to question herself. Dina left Iran with her mother for a better life. She recalls
Jul 22, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019, adult
"you have to understand, / no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than the land." -Warsan Shire, "Home"

THE UNGRATEFUL REFUGEE is a clarion call for human dignity, especially for those who have been forced from their home countries. Nayeri details her experience fleeing Iran as a child and ties it to several other refugees' stories--people who fled persecution and certain death to give themselves and their families a better life. She tears the flimsy distinction between
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2019
In turns fascinating and self-indulgent. Part reportage, part memoir which very occasionally becomes too neurotic for my sensibilities.

Nonetheless, a very solid piece of work that focuses on the questions of gratitude that the refugees are asked to perform in front of the native inhabitants of the country, usually those who had nothing to do with their rescue and the only thing they have over the refugees is the accident of birth.

The other leitmotif of this book is the subject of storytelling
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, fall-2019
In her first work of nonfiction, winner of the 2018 UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize Dina Nayeri—an author whose “exploration of the exile’s predicament is tender and urgent” (The New Yorker)—examines what it means to be a refugee through her own story of childhood escape from Iran, and through the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers.

Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read
Parts of this were really great, and some the refugee stories were amazing, but overall it's really scattered and hard to follow. ...more
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly amazing book about the experience and the feeling of being a refugee. Nayeri is incredibly honest and direct. She is also unrelenting in demanding people in the West to recognize their routine dehumanization of the refugees.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
When she was eight years old, Dina Nayeri’s mother began to be harassed by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and morality police. It wasn’t long before thing got so bad that she packed up her two children and fled Isfahan. The Ungrateful Refugee is a blend of memoir and nonfiction that recounts Nayeri’s experiences as a young refugee, with additional narratives from other refugees from Iran who looked to Europe and the United States as safe havens only to go through years of brutal hardship ...more
Toffee Mama
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
A perfect title for this book, I can say no more.
Oct 22, 2022 rated it really liked it
Read this, for sure. And also read her brother’s account, Everything Sad is Untrue. Together, the two books offer a vital, unflinching look at what it means to be a refugee – but you need the hope of his to make it through the heaviness of hers.

Daniel Nayeri tells the family’s story through his voice as a child, looking backward at what he’d lost and living in the moment as an Oklahoma transplant, a middle school misfit in the most extreme ways. Dina Nayeri tells it as the adult she is: A daught
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, nonfiction
This is a really enlightening book about the traumatic experiences that refugees face when trying to escape their home countries and seek asylum. Dina Nayeri shares her own experience fleeing Iran with her brother and mother, the various countries and refugee camps where they stayed on their journey, and then eventually being granted asylum in the US.

A couple of years ago I read Nayeri’s novel Refuge and I absolutely loved it. So it was really interesting to read this non-fiction account of her
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SO PERFECT. Literally learnt more than in my MA in Advanced Migration Studies. Never have I ever highlighted so much in a book I read for pleasure. Thank you - a truly eye-opening and thought-provoking read.
Britta Böhler
This didn't really work for me, despite some interesting points. ...more
I don’t usually write reviews but this phenomenally defiant book is just a thing of beauty. A must-read, regardless of who you are or what you care about.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish that everyone, but especially everyone from my home country and any other northern European countries, would read this book. It opens your eyes and your heart, makes you rethink what you think you know about refugees, and it is beautifully written!
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Books for a Bette...: Initial Questions/Thoughts - September 2020 1 3 Sep 10, 2020 09:45AM  
Plant It Forward ...: How are you enjoying The Ungrateful Refugee? 1 6 Mar 05, 2020 10:08AM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: What's in a name? 7 12 Mar 04, 2020 04:58PM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: Storytelling and Truth 1 5 Mar 03, 2020 12:14PM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: "The book had to be written this way" 1 7 Feb 13, 2020 07:49AM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: Welcome! 2 9 Feb 07, 2020 07:49AM  

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Dina Nayeri is a graduate of Princeton, Harvard Business School, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. She spends her time in New York and Iowa City.

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37 likes · 2 comments
“Home is never the same for anyone not just refugees. You go back and find that you have grown and so has your country. Home is gone. It lives in the mind. Time exiles us all from our childhood.” 11 likes
“I am standing on a thin border between past and future. Waiting for madness to come.” 4 likes
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