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

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THE UNGRATEFUL REFUGEE

WHAT IMMIGRANTS NEVER TELL YOU

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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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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