- Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri
Nayeri, Daniel Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story). Levine Querido, 2020 [368p] Trade ed. ISBN 9781646140008 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12
"Memories are always partly untrue," says Nayeri in this layered and extraordinary memoir of his childhood. He was born to a well-to-do family in Iran, and then when his mother converted to Christianity she and her children fled the country, spending a year in a refugee camp and ending up a poor immigrant in Oklahoma. There his mother married (and divorced, and remarried) a violent man called Ray, and young Daniel (as he was now known) struggled with American life, prejudice, and classmates. That's the barest of bones of this symphonic piece of storytelling that recombines scraps of memory, the absence thereof, contemplation upon, and retelling of (mostly Persian) legends that he, the modern Scheherazade, uses to scaffold the story of his family and himself, told often in a confiding address to [End Page 490] the reader. Characters are acutely and forcefully drawn—his "unstoppable" mother, his fierce sister, his endlessly charismatic father—and he writes with a seductive empathy that mires the reader alongside him in his joys and griefs. Humor ranges between the philosophically wry and the bleak; it's the book's focus on the themes of storytelling and memory and the stubborn authenticity of young Khousrou/Daniel's child view that result in a story that soars sometimes despite, sometimes because of, its sorrows. Readers will be transported, then inspired to mine their own family histories to become "Persian in their own way." An author's note adds commentary about a few details and the process of memoir.