In her last week in America, Shirin sells or gives away all her possessions, returning to the same small parcel she carried when she first arrived—a purse full of dried fruit and extra underwear. She feels thirty again.
She is happy to be leaving Cedar Rapids—a place that, in fifteen years, never grew to fit her strange edges—and to be sent closer to home. She is moving to a village somewhere in northern Thailand. Iran isn’t on the list of Peace Corps countries, after all, and this is a comfort. She has been away for too long and is a stranger now. Why go back and ruin the beautiful image her Tehrani relatives have of her? Still, she misses the East. She writes a letter about it to cousins in Tehran, emphasizing that the Peace Corps is a great honor, leaving out any hint of her lack of options. Months later, she suspects she misspelled the name—Peace Core, she remembers writing, a place that carries peace at its core. Is that not the meaning?
This text was originally published in the Alaska Quarterly Review in 2013, and later in O. Henry Prize Stories 2015.
Dina Nayeri was born during the Iranian revolution and fled the country when she was eight. She lived as a refugee for two years before being granted asylum in the United States. She writes fiction and nonfiction on displacement, the refugee crisis, and the Iranian diaspora. Her acclaimed Guardian Long Read “The Ungrateful Refugee” was one of the most widely...