Today’s refugees will spend years battling to be believed—not because they are liars but because they’re forced to make their stories fit a small set of accepted narratives, and because “truth” in storytelling is a product of culture. When they arrive in Europe or America, the displaced endure increasingly arduous and narrow definitions of truth. Meanwhile, powerful voices spread provable falsehoods with impunity. Why are some narratives believed, and others dismissed as lies? What is the coded language of truth in the West?
Dina Nayeri’s next book will examine truth in oral histories, particularly in crisis narratives (like those of refugees), which are often told under pressure, with shame and fear distorting memories, and without sophisticated persuasive tools. She will use literary tools to capture the strange, twisted honesty of refugee narratives, challenging existing notions of the relationship between truth and facts (and the calculated use of both in private and public), and how truth is (and should be) defined and disseminated in personal histories, crisis narratives, in politics and in the news.