Who Gets Believed?: When the Truth Isn't Enough (Hardcover)
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"Dina Nayeri's powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience."—Viet Thanh Nguyen
From the author of The Ungrateful Refugee—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Kirkus Prize—Who Gets Believed? is a groundbreaking book about persuasion and performance that asks unsettling questions about lies, truths, and the difference between being believed and being dismissed in situations spanning asylum interviews, emergency rooms, consulting jobs, and family life
Why are honest asylum seekers dismissed as liars?
Former refugee and award-winning author Dina Nayeri begins with this question, turning to shocking and illuminating case studies in this book, which grows into a reckoning with our culture’s views on believability. From persuading a doctor that she’d prefer a C-section to learning to “bullshit gracefully” at McKinsey to struggling, in her personal life, to believe her troubled brother-in-law, Nayeri explores an aspect of our society that is rarely held up to the light.
For readers of David Grann, Malcolm Gladwell, and Atul Gawande, Who Gets Believed? is a book as deeply personal as it is profound in its reflections on morals, language, human psychology, and the unspoken social codes that determine how we relate to one another.
About the Author
Dina Nayeri was born during the Iranian revolution and lived as a refugee for two years before being granted asylum in the United States. She is the author of The Ungrateful Refugee, winner of the Geschwister Scholl Preis and finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Kirkus Prize, and Elle Grand Prix des Lectrices, and called by The Observer "a work of astonishing, insistent importance." Her essay of the same name was one of The Guardian's most widely read long reads in 2017, taught in schools across Europe, and anthologized by Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Nguyen who wrote, "Dina Nayeri's powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience." A 2019-2020 fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris, and winner of the 2018 UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize, Dina has won a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the O. Henry Prize, and Best American Short Stories, and was a finalist for the 2017 Rome Prize, among other honors. Her work has been published in 20+ countries and in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Granta, and many other publications. She has a BA from Princeton, and masters degrees from Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Iowa Writers Workshop (where she was a Teaching Writing Fellow). She is an autumn 2021 Fellow at the American Library in Paris and has just joined the faculty at University of St Andrews.
Time, A Best Book of March
A NPR Book of the Day
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Goodreads, Literary Hub, Independent Book Review, Her Campus, and more
One of Electric Literature's Books by Women of Color to Read This Year
"Instantly gripping . . . It’s hard to categorize Who Gets Believed?; it is part memoir, part reportage, part criticism . . . But rather than dropping in familiar quotes to underline a specific point, she engages deeply with the texts, alongside other forms of art, to provide refreshing insights that drive the narrative forward . . . the book remains an ambitious and moving exploration of the borders we draw around credible victimhood, and will cement Nayeri’s position as a master storyteller of the refugee experience." —Aamna Mohdin, The Guardian
"Ardent, harrowing . . . An elegant telling of truth to power." —Stuart Jeffries, The Observer
"Memoir, philosophy, and social history collide in this compelling examination . . . [A] powerful, clarifying book." —Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
"This engrossing book ultimately makes the case for empathy across a range of situations, and for thinking critically about who does and doesn’t get believed, especially about their own stories." —Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
"A groundbreaking book about persuasion and performance that asks unsettling questions about lies, truths, and the difference between being believed and being dismissed in situations spanning asylum interviews, emergency rooms, consulting jobs, and family life. Nayeri explores an aspect of our society that is rarely held up to the light. The book is as deeply personal as it is profound in its reflections on morals, language, human psychology, and the unspoken social codes that determine how we relate to one another." —Arab News
"An illuminating (and shocking) reflection on the unspoken social codes that determine how we relate to one another in society. Through case studies spanning asylum interviews and her experiences with establishing a career and life in a new country, Nayeri’s writing will make you question your views on believability." —Salva Mubarak, Hello India
"It becomes clear within the first few chapters that the author is a fine storyteller with accounts that enlighten, entertain, and clearly elucidate her thesis . . . It is a must read for anyone wishing to have an unbiased view of a crucial part of our society and wishing to see reality as it is, not as we hope it is." —Christopher M. Doran, New York Journal of Books
"Perhaps it’s this razor-sharp understanding of the reality that plausibility often hinges on performance that makes Nayeri the perfect guide on her book’s exploration of truth and believability . . . [I]t’s a juggernaut of a work that forces readers to rethink on whom we bestow credibility, and why. It’s an important book, and the best thing may be to shelve a copy in every section of the store." —Gretchen Lida, Washington Independent Review of Books
"Who Gets Believed? is a testament to the power of words and their ability to decide the fate of a life, or many lives. For anyone who stands trial, has been falsely convicted, has gained or been denied asylum, the judge and/or jury are arbiters of destiny — at least on earthly planes of existence." —Mischa Geracoulis, The Markaz Review
"Few books are as erudite, comprehensive, and intensely personal all at once. This is a riveting read that will be of interest to many, from those concerned with the plight of refugees and the biases built into many American institutions to anyone who loves unconventional memoirs and beautiful writing." —Library Journal
"Wide-ranging and provocative." —Publishers Weekly
"Nayeri dances smoothly between memoir and the stories of others . . . An unflinching, compelling look at how 'calcified hearts believe'—and disbelieve." —Kirkus Reviews
“A compelling, generous, and distinctive inquiry into the nature of belief, credibility, and, above all, the deeply unjust and unequal societies in which we live. Reading it I was reminded of Joan Didion’s famous and oft-misconstrued observation that ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to live’. Who Gets Believed? shows the workings of Nayeri's singular and noble mind." —Chitra Ramaswamy, author of Homelands: The History of a Friendship
"Dina Nayeri’s mesmerizing, genre-bending book braids together narratives of asylum seekers, exonerated felons, and religious converts to ask: Who Gets Believed? In an era of 'fake news' and tribalism, her question is urgent. In lyrical prose, Nayeri dives into court cases, draws from history and literature, and shares her own family’s journey as refugees from Iran. The result is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Reading this book will upend your preconceptions about who is worthy of belief, as writing it did for Nayeri herself." —Amanda Frost, author You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers
"Who Gets Believed? is an important, courageous, brilliant book; an interrogation of 'disbelief culture' and the injustice that both fuels it and is fuelled by it, a form-shifting memoir of an already-remarkable life, and a moving, harrowing investigation of love, loss and care." —Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland
"A profound, gorgeous, devastating book, exhilarating in both its compassion and its contemplation of pain. Part memoir, part—everything: reportage, criticism, history, meditation—this is a book about the many translations of grief, suffering, and hope. It is also about performance and truth, staged necessarily and most urgently by refugees seeking asylum, and seeking the belief of others. Who Gets Believed? is that rarest of creations, an original work about a condition in which we are all implicated." —Jeff Sharlet, bestselling author of The Family and This Brilliant Darkness
“I was hugely moved by this book . . . To bear witness, to tell my own story in my own words, is a basic human right. And yet as Dina Nayeri’s powerful, often harrowing, but ultimately inspiring account of injustice and survival shows, millions are denied that right on an almost casual basis. Who Gets Believed? is essential reading, an extraordinary labor of love and hope that is destined to become indispensable in the continuing struggle for justice, a day when everyone has the basic right to speak the truth openly and to have their testimony heard." —John Burnside, author of A Lie about My Father
“A truly remarkable book, where universal and deeply personal themes are powerfully interwoven. Torture survivors and other refugees know all too well the cost of being disbelieved about their own life story. Dina Nayeri’s book is itself a masterclass in storytelling, teasing out the crucial implications of ‘who gets believed’ for all of us.” —Steve Crawshaw, policy director at Freedom from Torture and author of Street Spirit: The Power of Protest and Mischief