Sunday, September 25, 2011

by Lucette Lagnado

Four years ago, Lucette Lagnado wrote The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit which was a portrait of her father, Leon, who walked the boulevards of Cairo so proud of himself and of what he had accomplished. The book was a terrific story and now a follow-up memoir has just been published.
In The Arrogant Years, Lucette writes about her mother, Edith and herself. Edith grew up in Old Cairo rather poor. There was no father (he had left early on) and Edith's mother, Alexandra, obsessively doted on her daughter. A lover of French literature, Edith would become a schoolteacher and a librarian. She was beautiful, vibrant, intelligent and charming and caught the eye of a much older man one day in a cafe. They got married and she had to give up her career much to her dismay.
By the early 1950s, the political situation had changed in Egypt. King Farouk was forced to abdicate. The Jews were terrified (under the kings they were protected) and started leaving the country in droves.
Lucette was born during the chaos in 1956. Seven years later, the entire family would try and rebuild the hearth in New York. Being an immigrant in a new country was tough and Lagnado tried desperately to fit in. Her many trials and tribulations (at the age of sixteen, she would be quite ill with Hodgkin's lymphoma) only made her that much stronger. While her confidence grew, her parents' struggles deepened.
I didn't want this book to end, at all. I read everything even the Acknowledgments which, most times, are long-winded with a million names. She makes it interesting breaking sections up by countries because the people who helped in her research were all over the world.
Lagnado is a wonderful writer and really knows how to showcase a family's history with such honesty and emotion.
Very highly recommended.