There's just so much that the displaced don't tell the native-born and it's all around dignity and shame.
Hi, I'm Isabelle Roughol, and this is Borderline.
This week, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Dina Nayeri. She is a novelist, Iranian American. She arrived from Iran as a child, as a refugee, after her mother converted to Christianity and was proselytizing in the eighties, in Iran, so shortly after the revolution, and that did not go over well. That's the story that she tells in her latest book, The Ungrateful Refugee, What immigrants never tell you.
This is a book that I want to put in everyone's hands who works in immigration, everyone who decides the fate of immigrants and also every well-meaning native born citizen, as she puts it, the ones to whom, as she writes, there is so much that the displaced don't tell.
Our conversation was long, over an hour. I cut it down to 45 minutes. It's a bit longer than your average episode, but it was just so, so interesting. And you can savour this one, like fine candy. Take your time, because this is the last episode for now, for the summer, the last episode of this season of Borderline. And I'll tell you a little bit more at the end of the episode about what's coming up.
I want to salute three new members of Borderline: Anne-Sophie Bolon, Matt Hilton and Lawrence Wood. Thank you so much for your support of this work. I really appreciate it.
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But for now, here's my conversation with Dina Nayeri. And first I asked her why she had decided to make the switch from novels that were very much inspired by her own story, to a memoir where the masks come off.
I came to writing first through fiction. I mean, fiction was my first love, just because of all of the freedoms that it gives you and the ability to focus purely on, you know, the language and the art and a kind of greater truth than I suppose the facts allow because you get to create the story, according to the thing that you want to show to the world. And you get to hide a little bit behind the veil of fiction. You know, you get to be kind of the artist, the creator, you don't have to be the subject, you know, which is a really difficult thing to open up yourself to. And, you know, there are rules of fiction in terms of how people read it: people who are, you know, in not just the world of publishing, but you know, good readers, they understand they're not reading you, you know, but that every writer's work is informed by their life.