The Ungrateful Refugee Book Group

This last semester I joined I book group. We decided that we wanted to find a book that was at least marginally related to Iran giving the rising tensions at the time (a trend that has continued).  We decided to read the book The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri.

The book begins shortly after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 during the Iran-Iraq War. Nayeri’s mother converts to Christianity after a trip to London which makes life hard on the family as the new revolutionary government distrusts those who aren’t devout Shiite Muslims. They ultimately emigrate to Oklahoma where they continue to face discrimination because of their Iranian heritage.

Nayeri recounts her experiences of trying to be grateful for her new life where she is safe from governmental persecution but suffered at the hands of the American citizenry. This led to conversations in our book group about discrimination against people in the U.S. today and what groups tended to be the most affected. We more or less decided that generally, immigrants from Central America and the Middle East tend to be the most marginalized in the U.S.,  similar to how other ethnic groups have been discriminated against (Irish, Italians, etc etc etc).

For me, the book showed a unique insight into how to the American dream does not always apply to those we welcome into our country. It is possible for refugees to be physically safe in our country but that does not mean that they feel safe or welcomed. This problem can only get better as time goes on if American prejudices change, albeit gradually.

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