Children’s experiences of displacement

Dina Nayeri was born during the Iranian revolution and lived as a refugee for two years before being granted asylum in the United States. In 2021, Dina joined the School of English as Lecturer in Creative Writing.

Much of Dina's writing focuses on the experiences of refugees and displaced people. She is the author of The Ungrateful Refugee (2017), 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 more than 20 countries and in The New York TimesThe GuardianThe Washington PostThe New YorkerGranta, and many other publications.  Her playwriting work has been produced by the English Touring Theatre and The Old Vic in London and shortlisted for the Paines Plough Women's Prize.

The Waiting Place book cover

Dina’s book of writing and photography for children, The Waiting Place: When Home is Lost and a New One Not Yet Found (Walker Books UK, Candlewick Press US, 2022), was published in May 2022 and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and in Vogue UK.

In Nayeri’s book, the refugee camp – the waiting place – is the villain, draining children of energy, ambition and purpose:

“The Waiting Place wants children to stay. It wants them to forget the hours, the days.
It doesn’t want them to go to school, to see a doctor. …”

“The Waiting Place … wants more children and mothers and fathers. It doesn’t want you to visit the nearby lake, to hike the frosted mountain, to learn your new language, or to work or build or learn. It craves your hours, weeks, years. Here is a place that always sees you, it whispers in the night. You must wait. Any day now. Tick tock. Why bother with plans? Sit, sleep, fight. Don’t be caught unpausing.”

The Waiting Place page with photo of boys on bunk beds

Exploring the experiences of children from Iran and Afghanistan in a Greek refugee camp, the book aims, among other things, to provide a resource for children to learn more about the lives and experiences of displaced children. Working with schools and refugee charities in Scotland, the wider UK and Greece, Dina is giving numerous talks and events in tandem with the supply of nearly 6,000 free copies of the book to schools in areas hosting high numbers of displaced people.

Further events include fund-raisers for educational charities working with displaced children, including Second Tree. A book for adults, Who Gets Believed: Why Truth Isn’t Enough (Harvill Secker UK, Catapult Books US, 2023), exploring routine institutional disbelief of narratives by refugees, the mentally ill and other vulnerable individuals, is forthcoming in spring 2023.