The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

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The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A rare opportunity to read the stories of refugees direct from the refugees themselves, The Ungrateful Refugee is moving, thought provoking, and utterly refreshing – eye-opening in the best possible way and allowing the reader a deep glimpse into the varied stories of what makes a refugee.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: May 2019
Publisher: Canongate Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1786893451

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Here in the West, we see news reports about immigrants on a regular basis – some media welcoming them, some scaremongering about them. But all of those stories are written by journalists – almost always western, and almost always, no matter how deep the investigative journalism they carry out, outsiders to the world and the situations that refugees find themselves in. It's rare that we find out the journeys from the refugees themselves – and this is a rare opportunity to do that, in this intelligent, powerful and moving work by Dina Nayeri -someone who was born in the middle of a revolution in Iran, fleeing to America as a ten-year-old.

In 2015, Alan Kurdi was found drowned on a Turkish beach, a refugee from the ongoing conflicts in Syria. His parents had sought passage to Canada in hopes of a safer, more stable life away from persecution, but a dangerously overpacked inflatable boat saw Alan dead just five minutes after departing. Alan was three years old. The pictures of his small, vulnerable body affected people across the world, and gave a face and a name to the refugee crisis that began to change perceptions – although with the far right on the rise again across both Europe and America, it's clear that not everyone has the humanity to be moved by the plight of people having to escape from genuinely horrific situations. Author Dina Nayeri was a refugee from Iran at the age of ten, and as such she has a unique viewpoint on the journey that refugees go through - not only in travelling to and seeking refuge in a new company, but in the situations that refugees then find themselves in - of trying to settle into a new country in which the expectations placed upon them are that of both instant adherence to a country's customs, combined with eternal gratitude to the country for taking them in. That's before an attempt is even made at answering some of the bizarre questions contained in a citizenship test, which seem designed to put off as many people as possible, and would likely be failed by any native person to that country.

Nayeri's viewpoint allows her to work closely with people across the world in order to tell their stories - she's an interviewer and observer whose story clearly influences the way she talks and reports the stories of these people, but she's a good enough writer to ensure that the stories he tells stand on their own - distinct, clear and individual voices that combine to form a book that's both timely and necessary – and could offer many people the beginning of an understanding into the lives of millions of people across the globe.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari - another book that is a clarion call for understanding in this modern world. We also have a review of Refuge by Dina Nayeri.

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