What We Are Reading Today: The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

Updated 10 September 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

The Ungrateful Refugee is a clarion call for human dignity, especially for those who have been forced from their home countries.

Author Dina Nayeri details her experience fleeing Iran as a child and ties it to several other refugees’ stories — people who fled persecution and certain death to give themselves and their families a better life.

Nayeri “tears the flimsy distinction between ‘economic migrant’ and ‘refugee’ to shreds as she argues for a common humanity no matter the circumstances and reveals callous and inhumane Western attitudes and policies toward immigrants,” said a review in goodreads.com.

The Ungrateful Refugee “is a blend of memoir and nonfiction that recounts Nayeri’s experiences as a young refugee, with additional narratives from other refugees from Iran who looked to Europe and the US as safe havens only to go through years of brutal hardship and callous bureaucracy,” added the review.

“It should come as no surprise that this book is full of righteous anger at the way refugees are treated by the Western world. This is absolutely a book for our times.”

What We Are Reading Today: Porcelain by Suzanne L. Marchand

Updated 02 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Porcelain by Suzanne L. Marchand

Porcelain was invented in medieval China—but its secret recipe was first reproduced in Europe by an alchemist in the employ of the Saxon king Augustus the Strong. Saxony’s revered Meissen factory could not keep porcelain’s ingredients secret for long, however, and scores of Holy Roman princes quickly founded their own mercantile manufactories, soon to be rivaled by private entrepreneurs, eager to make not art but profits. As porcelain’s uses multiplied and its price plummeted, it lost much of its identity as aristocratic ornament, instead taking on a vast number of banal, yet even more culturally significant, roles. By the 19th and 20th centuries, it became essential to bourgeois dining, and also acquired new functions in insulator tubes, shell casings, and teeth.

Weaving together the experiences of entrepreneurs and artisans, state bureaucrats and female consumers, chemists and peddlers, Porcelain traces the remarkable story of “white gold” from its origins as a princely luxury item to its fate in Germany’s cataclysmic 20th century. For 300 years, porcelain firms have come and gone, but the industry itself, at least until very recently, has endured. After Augustus, porcelain became a quintessentially German commodity, integral to provincial pride, artisanal industrial production, and a familial sense of home.

Telling the story of porcelain’s transformation from coveted luxury to household necessity and flea market staple, Porcelain offers a fascinating alternative history of art, business, taste, and consumption in Central Europe.