Two of my favorite Christian public figures have become great friends, and I love watching their brother-sister bond play out over Instagram and through podcasts. So when Russell Moore posted an Instagram shout-out to Beth Moore for recommending Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story), I was intrigued enough to check it out.
Calling author Daniel Nayeri’s memoir “phenomenal,” Russell Moore went on to say, “this book is one of the most moving things I have read in years… I wish I had read it sooner and I wish I could read it again for the first time.” Beth Moore replied that she would have bugged him until he had. Written from the viewpoint of a refugee from Iran who has landed in a fifth grade classroom on Edmond, Oklahoma, Nayeri’s memoir loosely follows the format of the Persian classic 1001 Nights, in which the wily Scherazade preserves her own life night after night through clever storytelling. Our hero here is hapless Daniel, who is mercilessly bullied by his classmates, terrified by his stepfather, and deeply loved by his mother.
Anyone from middle school up will enjoy this wildly inventive, thought-provoking book, and it would be an excellent family read-aloud. Youth pastors who minister in an immigrant context, or want to find out more about the challenges immigrant kids face, would also benefit tremendously from Nayeri’s perspective. For families taking a road trip this holiday weekend, you might prefer the excellent audio version, read by the author. The story is true, if you can believe a memoirist who begins “All Persians are liars and lying is a sin.” Truth, lies, and memory become foundational themes as Daniel recounts how he, his sister, and his mother were forced to flee Iran when his mother came to faith in Christ, a commitment that constituted a capital offense. She gave up her medical career, her husband, and her exalted social status to work menial jobs in Oklahoma, and counted Christ worthy of every sacrifice.
Other themes include: immigration, bullying, weakness, bravery, grief, sacrifice, family bonds, and more. Some of his stories are deeply sad, while others are hilarious (warning: casting himself as a fifth-grade narrator, Daniel tells his fair share of poop stories). Above all, the reader sees how Daniel is awed not only by his mother’s strength, but by his mother’s God. You will want to share his beautiful, warm, endearing book with your family as a testament to the fact that our redeeming God can and does bring beauty out of ashes.