Who Gets Believed?

When the Truth Isn't Enough

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Book Description

“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 Author Photo
© Anna Leader

Praise For This Book

"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