The book: Niloo, an Iranian girl, comes to America as a child and her father, Bahman, stays behind. Refuge shows a relationship between a daughter and her father through global immigration and four visits over 20 years, with each visit in a different international city. Niloo transitions from a confused immigrant child, to an overachieving Westerner, to a sophisticated European. As an adult living in Amsterdam, Niloo’s father needs her help. Wanting to assist, Niloo finds herself entranced by a world she missed and yet has never known.
The author: Dina Nayeri ’01 is also the author of A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, which was translated into 14 languages. A graduate of Princeton, Harvard, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the O. Henry Award, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Bogliasco Foundation, and several other artist residencies.
Opening page: In order to finalize his own ugly business, as if the universe were demanding one last slice of flesh, Bahman was compelled to watch thirteen consecutive divorces, a full docket. By the sixth one, he stared baffled at his young lawyer — who was also slowly succumbing to the malaise of it, uneasy shoulders sinking, loose lips draped over half his cigarette — and mouthed, “This is absurd.”
“Forgive me, Agha Doctor, what do you mean?” The attorney raised both eyebrows as if Bahman should have expected this farce, as if an ordinary man should be accustomed to watching pale husbands slump and flinch, pretty wives crumble thirteen times just to complete his own errand. There is always an instant, isn’t there, when youth fails? And who wants to see it?
Reviews: Kirkus Reviews says, “Nayeri’s second novel is richly imagined and frequently moving in its descriptions of the neither-here-nor-there immigrant’s life … Nayeri manages these various threads — the personal, the political, the cultural, the generational — deftly, and the result is poignant, wise, and often funny … A vital, timely novel about what it means to seek refuge.”
Booklist: “Set against landscapes of political unrest, Nayeri’s novel of a daughter and father seeking to reconcile their long-distance perceptions of family offers a captivating, multilayered exploration of lives caught between worlds.”