Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a True Story)
Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a True Story)

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Annotation: The unforgettable voice of a young refugee gives this groundbreaking autobiographical its beating heart. Capturing the essence of A Thousand and One Nights, from middle school humiliations to wondrous Persian myths, you will find one powerful narrative, united by hope for a world that ought to be.
Catalog Number: #215658
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 356 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-646-14000-1 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7990-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-646-14000-8 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7990-6
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
Framed loosely as his twelve-year-old self's responses to a series of school assignments, Nayeri's fictionalized memoir swirls through his own memories as well as stories from his family history, circling around major events and pausing to include his Oklahoma classmates' reactions to his tales of early childhood in Iran. This structure means the story takes some time to pick up speed -- which it does once it goes into more focused detail about Nayeri's family's journey: their quick escape from Iran after his mother's life was threatened because she had converted to Christianity; his father's decision to stay behind. The buildup comprises tangent upon tangent -- Nayeri alludes frequently to Scheherazade's stringing together of stories in the 1,001 Nights -- but those tangents are absorbing and full of universalizing detail and humor (there's more than one poop anecdote). This tale is constantly focused on its telling, with references to an imagined audience and reminders of who characters are. The actual audience is a bit of a puzzle, as the twelve-year-old narrator's tale spans a wide range of ages in his life and those of his family members, and the overall sensibility seems more adult than not. An author's note acknowledges the fallibility of memory as well as some deliberate alterations; it is, as Nayeri puts it, "both fiction and nonfiction at the same time." Shoshana Flax
Kirkus Reviews
“Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive.”Khosrou, the child, stands before his class in Oklahoma and tells stories of Iran, lifetimes’ worth of experiences compressed into writing prompts. Daniel, the adult, pieces together his “patchwork” past to stitch a quilt of memory in a free-wheeling, layered manner more reminiscent of a conversation than a text. At its most basic level, Nayeri’s offering is a fictionalized refugee’s memoir, an adult looking back at his childhood and the forced adoption of a new and infinitely more difficult life. Yet somehow “memoir” fails to do justice to the scope of the narrative, the self-proclaimed antithesis of just another “ ‘poor me’ tale of immigrant woe.” Like Scheherazade, Nayeri spins 1,001 tales: In under 400 pages he recounts Persian myth and history, leads readers through days banal and outstanding, waxes philosophical on the nature of life and love, and more. Not “beholden” to the linear conventions of Western storytelling, the story might come across as disjointed, but the various anecdotes are underscored by a painful coherence as they work to illuminate not only a larger story, but a life. And there is beauty amid the pain as well as laughter. The soul-sapping hopelessness of a refugee camp is treated with the same dramatic import as the struggle to eliminate on Western toilets. The language is evocative: simple yet precise, rife with the idiosyncratic and abjectly honest imagery characteristic of a child’s imagination. (This review has been updated to clarify that the book is a work of fiction.)A modern epic. (author’s note, acknowledgments) (Historical fiction. 10-18)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
“Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive.”Khosrou, the child, stands before his class in Oklahoma and tells stories of Iran, lifetimes’ worth of experiences compressed into writing prompts. Daniel, the adult, pieces together his “patchwork” past to stitch a quilt of memory in a free-wheeling, layered manner more reminiscent of a conversation than a text. At its most basic level, Nayeri’s offering is a fictionalized refugee’s memoir, an adult looking back at his childhood and the forced adoption of a new and infinitely more difficult life. Yet somehow “memoir” fails to do justice to the scope of the narrative, the self-proclaimed antithesis of just another “ ‘poor me’ tale of immigrant woe.” Like Scheherazade, Nayeri spins 1,001 tales: In under 400 pages he recounts Persian myth and history, leads readers through days banal and outstanding, waxes philosophical on the nature of life and love, and more. Not “beholden” to the linear conventions of Western storytelling, the story might come across as disjointed, but the various anecdotes are underscored by a painful coherence as they work to illuminate not only a larger story, but a life. And there is beauty amid the pain as well as laughter. The soul-sapping hopelessness of a refugee camp is treated with the same dramatic import as the struggle to eliminate on Western toilets. The language is evocative: simple yet precise, rife with the idiosyncratic and abjectly honest imagery characteristic of a child’s imagination. (This review has been updated to clarify that the book is a work of fiction.)A modern epic. (author’s note, acknowledgments) (Historical fiction. 10-18)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* "A patchwork story is the shame of a refugee." It's with this refrain that 12-year-old Khosrou, known as Daniel to his skeptical Oklahoman classmates, tells "a version" of his life story. In the tradition of 1,001 Nights' Scheherazade, he gathers up the loose strands of his memory, weaving short personal vignettes into the Persian histories, myths, and legends that are his ancestry. The result is a winding series of digressions that takes the reader on a journey as intimate as it is epic, knitting together a tale of Daniel's youth in Iran, the perilous flight from home with his sister and mother, and their oppressive new beginning as refugees in Oklahoma. It's a story heavy with loss (of home, of his left-behind father, of innocence), light with humor and love (for his mother, the "unstoppable force"), rich in culture and language (and, somehow, never sentimental). Walking the line between fiction and non-, this is a kind of meta-memoir, a story about the stories that define us. It's a novel, narrated conversationally d poetically a boy reaching for the truth in his fading youth. Nayeri challenges outright what young readers can handle, in form and content, but who can deny him when it's his own experience on display? He demands much of readers, but in return he gives them everything. A remarkable work that raises the literary bar in children's lit.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (7/1/20)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews (2/1/20)
Michael Printz Award (2/1/20)
Word Count: 85,620
Reading Level: 5.3
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 13.0 / quiz: 509792 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 800L

A National Indie Bestseller
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Best Book of the Year
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Editors' Choice
A BookPage Best Book of the Year
A NECBA Windows & Mirrors Selection
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year
A Today.com Best of the Year

PRAISE

"A modern masterpiece."—The New York Times Book Review

"Supple, sparkling and original." —The Wall Street Journal

"Mesmerizing."—TODAY.com

"This book could change the world."—BookPage

"Like nothing else you've read or ever will read."—Linda Sue Park

"It hooks you right from the opening line."—NPR

SEVEN STARRED REVIEWS

★ "A modern epic."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ "A rare treasure of a book." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ "A story that soars." —The Bulletin, starred review

★ "At once beautiful and painful."—School Library Journal, starred review

★ "Raises the literary bar in children's lit." —Booklist, starred review

★ "Poignant and powerful." —Foreword Reviews, starred review

★ "One of the most extraordinary books of the year." —BookPage, starred review

A sprawling, evocative, and groundbreaking autobiographical novel told in the unforgettable and hilarious voice of a young Iranian refugee. It is a powerfully layered novel that poses the questions: Who owns the truth? Who speaks it? Who believes it?

"A patchwork story is the shame of the refugee," Nayeri writes early in the novel. In an Oklahoman middle school, Khosrou (whom everyone calls Daniel) stands in front of a skeptical audience of classmates, telling the tales of his family's history, stretching back years, decades, and centuries. At the core is Daniel's story of how they became refugees—starting with his mother's vocal embrace of Christianity in a country that made such a thing a capital offense, and continuing through their midnight flight from the secret police, bribing their way onto a plane-to-anywhere. Anywhere becomes the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy, and then finally asylum in the U.S. Implementing a distinct literary style and challenging western narrative structures, Nayeri deftly weaves through stories of the long and beautiful history of his family in Iran, adding a richness of ancient tales and Persian folklore.

Like Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Nights in a hostile classroom, Daniel spins a tale to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth. EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE (a true story) is a tale of heartbreak and resilience and urges readers to speak their truth and be heard.


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