Thoughts on The Ungrateful Refugee
Updated: Jun 21
Review: The Ungrateful Refugee What Immigrants Never Tell you by Dina Nayeri
'In a refugee camp, stories are everything. Everyone has one, having just slipped out from the grip of a nightmare (The Ungrateful Refugee: Dina Nayeri).
**Trigger warnings: These are the real life experiences of asylum seekers, they include abuse, violence, poor mental health and suicide.**
Dina Neyari tells her own story of fleeing Iran with her mother and young brother when she was eight. She recalls her experience of living in a crumbling hotel in Italy before ultimately being granted asylum in America. As she explains her own story and processes this as an adult, she visits other asylum seekers as they begin to claim asylum, await their decision and appeal the decision making of the Home Office. She documents the stories of these people, along with the professionals and volunteers who are offering support.
These are people's real open and honest stories of their experiences of fleeing their homes, crossing borders and starting new lives in the hope of security and safety.
What others have said
"Dina Nayeri's powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience." --Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees.
“Dina Nayeri has written a vital book for our times. The Ungrateful Refugeegives voice to those whose stories are too often lost or suppressed. Braiding memoir, reportage and essayism, Nayeri allows those fortunate enough to have never been stateless or displaced to glimpse something of the hardships and subtleties of the refugee experience. Written with compassion, tenderness and a burning anger, her book appears at the end of a decade in which division and dislocation have risen to a terrible pitch. It speaks powerfully from – and to – the heart. Please read it” -- Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland.
"This is a humane and compelling book that seeks to make human those demonized by the media and governing bodies for so long. Nayeri is never sentimental, and her accounts of refugee lives, including her own, are unflinching, complex, provocative, and important." -- Nikesh Shukla, author of The Good Immigrant.
What did I think?
To put it simply, I loved it. I know I will read it again and love it again. I strongly believe this is essential reading for everyone, and is a book that I keep telling everyone to go out and buy.
This isn't a typical 'story' book and it manages to balance itself between being an autobiography and retelling the stories of others sensitively, compassionately and kindly. I felt that despite being Dina Nayeri's personal story, there was no competition between that the other asylum seekers narratives as well. At times the subject matter is incredibly sad but these were relayed in a manner which promoted the dignity of the story-teller and was not sensationalised - what they say is enough to reflect the mental torture and distress is enough.
This book isn't one that you can say you enjoy, its not the light Sunday afternoon reading that you may crave. Its a stark description on the realities of being an asylum seeker and how the toxic systems that operate all around us impact upon some of the most vulnerable in society so don't pick it up if you are looking for a lighthearted read but should you read it??? Yes!!! It's essential reading and I can only hope that it informs and influences opinions.
Star rating: 5* (out of 5)
Will I read it again?: Yes, in a heartbeat - I have lent it to a friend but can't wait to get it back.