Title: Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story)
Author: Daniel (birth name: Khosrou) Nayeri
Genre: Slightly Fictionalized Autobiography
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Over the last week, my church hosted a missions conference with the theme of Sojourners. Much of the focus was on ministry to displaced people (a topic much on our hearts and minds as we have a sister church in Ukraine), and as a follow-up I will be recommending this book on Sunday.
All too often displaced people are reduced to political pawns and depersonalized talking points to shame opponents or outrage the voting base. Everything Sad Is Untrue is an antidote to such lack of personal empathy and compassion. In it, Daniel/Khosrou records a barely fictionalized account of his own life as a refugee. He writes from the point of view of his 12-year-old self, speaking directly to the reader about his memories, confusion, heartaches, and hopes.
We are told repeatedly that “a patchwork memory is the shame of a refuge,” and the extremely disordered and fragmentary narration highlights this theme. Khosrou jumps around wildly in his story from earliest childhood memories to present middle school experience to everything in between (including an odd number of poop-related stories…gotta love middle schoolers). Along the way he frequently references The 1,001 Nights of his native Persia/Iran as a sort of parallel to his own desperately throwing out stories as they occur to him.
The scattery style and 12-year-old voice take some getting used to, but it is worth your time to stick with it. The confusion, loss, and hurt that underly most of the stories will sadden your heart and make you angry at the cruelty of mankind, but there are also some beautiful descriptions of his mother’s courage and faith and his own hope that looks beyond present circumstances. This is not a Christian book per se (in fact, behavior by some of the churchy people in the book really ticked me off!), but his mother’s faith in Jesus is a truly amazing expression of the blessed hope that there is coming a day when “everything sad comes untrue.”