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The Ungrateful Refugee

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The Ungrateful Refugee

What Immigrants Never Tell You


15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Immigrants worldwide find that “when you have no rights, everyone has power over you.”

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Novelist Dina Nayeri’s urgent, provocative stories recount her flight from Iran, her need to assimilate in the United States, and her frustration at the injustices and indignities refugees face. Volunteering at refugee camps in Greece and assisting asylum seekers in Europe, Nayeri encountered tragedy, sorrow, hopelessness, anger and apathy, but also courage, love and determination. Frustrated with Western institutions that keep asylum seekers out, she’s disappointed at society’s antipathy and suspicion. Nayeri’s memorable, fearless stories call for compassion and justice for the most vulnerable people in the world.  


Dina Nayeri’s refugee experience in 1988 defined her life for two decades.

Dina Nayeri was born in Iran in 1979, the year the country fought the revolution that would turn it into an Islamic state. Her parents were well respected in her hometown, Isfahan. Her mother was a doctor and her father a dentist. But, when Nayeri’s mother converted to Christianity in 1985, she experienced three years of harassment and threats for her apostasy. At school, teachers and fellow students reviled Nayeri for not being Muslim. Facing imminent arrest for declining to spy on her fellow Christians, Nayeri’s mother decided to flee Iran, taking her children and leaving her husband behind. On the drive to take a flight to Dubai, Nayeri vowed that if they made it to the United States, she would work hard, learn English and become exceptional.

In a series of events that Nayeri’s mother dubbed “the three miracles,” they escaped Iran. First, Nayeri’s father had a friend who smuggled them out of Iran on a cargo plane,. Second, they had no passports to leave Iran, but her father also had a patient who worked in the passport ...

About the Author

Dina Nayeri is winner of the UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts literature grant. Her novels Refuge and A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea have been translated into several languages. 

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