Questions about Family
Throughout the novel, Niloo tries to rebrand herself to fit in with the cultures in which she is living. Do you think that Niloo is responsible for the failing relationship with her father, Bahman? If so, how? Consider how the failing relationship might be a byproduct of circumstance, individual fault, or joint fault between characters. Explain.
Do you think that Niloo’s upbringing affected her relationship with her husband, Gui? What cultural components might have played a role?
If you could add an addendum to Refuge: A Novel how would you end the story? For example, would Gui and Niloo live happily? Would Bahman have been accepted for asylum in the Netherlands? Would Pari and Bahman have gotten back together? Would Bahman have relapsed on opium and come back to old habits?
From Nayeri’s website:
“Refuge charts the deeply moving lifetime relationship between a father and a daughter, seen through the prism of global immigration. Beautifully written, full of insight, charm, and humor, the novel subtly exposes the parts of ourselves that get left behind in the wake of diaspora and ultimately asks: Must home always be a physical place, or can we find it in another person?” What is home for you? Do you think everyone should have the same concept of home?
Questions about Addiction & Suffering
Do you think that Bahman would have been divorced three times if he hadn’t been an opioid addict? How did his addiction affect his relationships with those around him?
Who do you think was most affected by Bahman’s disease? Bahman, his wives, or his children? How and why?
Why do you think Bahman became addicted to opium? Do you believe it was a cultural norm that stemmed into addiction or was it something further troubling in his life, or neither? Explain why.
Questions about Migration
If you were writing this story today, say, set in the 2019 political climate, what are some of the key social and political elements you would incorporate into the novel? Would Niloo have the same problems? Would Niloo and her family be welcome in the United States? Amsterdam? London? What obstacles would affect them?
If you were Dr. Pari Hamidi, would you have fled your home country if you were under the same circumstances she was, why or why not?
How did Niloo’s childhood and education in America change her worldviews? How do you believe Niloo’s education affected her relationships?
Questions about the Political Climate
In Zakhmeh, the Persian squat and arts center, stories about culture and art were prominent. If you were a character in Refuge: a Novel, what personal story would you choose to tell at Zakhmeh and why?
Was there anything mentioned in the book that you feel you did not have enough cultural and historical background to understand? If you were the author of this book, or another similar text, would you write in a similar way that makes people seek outside resources for context or would you explain everything you wrote about in the novel? What are some positives and negatives to both of these options?
Sydney Gualtieri ’19