A unique, deeply thought-out refugee saga perfect for our moment.

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A novelist turns to nonfiction to illuminate the refugee experience, focusing mostly on her Iranian family but also reporting the sagas of many others fleeing poverty and violence.

The word “ungrateful” in the title is intended sarcastically, even bitterly. For Nayeri (Refuge, 2017, etc.), winner of the UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize, that word signifies the misguided mindset of privileged individuals in stable nations who treat desperate refugees with suspicion, condescension, or even outright cruelty. Those unkind hosts falsely believe that refugees expect something for nothing, that maybe those fleeing to save their lives will somehow displace welfare benefits and jobs in a new land. With inventive, powerful prose, Nayeri demonstrates what should be obvious: that refugees give up everything in their native lands only when absolutely necessary—if they remain, they may face poverty, physical torture, or even death. The author, who was born during the Iranian Revolution and came to the U.S. when she was 10, grew up with her brother in a household run by her physician mother and dentist father. However, their relative privilege could not keep them safe from Muslim extremists involved in the revolution. Nayeri’s father learned to compromise his principles to get along, but her mother rebelled openly, converting to Christianity. The extremists threatened to kill her and take her children, so her mother gathered her children and fled, leaving Iran secretly via a risky route. Nayeri’s father stayed behind, eventually remarrying and starting a new family. The refugees subsisted for 16 months in squalor, mostly in a compound in Italy. Nayeri’s mother, desperately working every angle, used her wits and solid education to gain entry to the U.S. The author uses some time-shifting to unfold the narrative, which she divides into five sections: escape (from Iran), refugee camp, asylum (in the U.S.), assimilation, and cultural repatriation.

A unique, deeply thought-out refugee saga perfect for our moment.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948226-42-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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