The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn

Lucette Lagnado, Author
Lucette Lagnado. Ecco, $25.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-180367-3
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Ebook - 416 pages - 978-0-06-209256-4
Paperback - 404 pages - 978-0-06-180369-7
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Lagnado's tenacious, long-suffering Cairene mother, Edith, is the focus of this lyrical if long-winded second family memoir, after The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. Raised mainly by her own mother in the close-knit yet diverse Jewish neighborhood of Sakakini in Cairo when her father deserted them in the late 1920s, Edith was educated rigorously in a French-speaking school patronized by the pasha Cattaui and his wife, infused by a passion for literature early on, then became a well-respected teacher—a rare achievement for girls in Egypt at the time. Edith's beauty attracted a wealthy older man about town, Leon, prompting illusions of aristocracy and romance in both Edith and her mother, which were sadly not realized. Indeed, the "evil eye" seemed to have dogged the family from Cairo to New York, where they were forced to migrate after the Egyptian revolution in 1952; displaced to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, by 1964, the family disintegrated amid straitened circumstances. The youngest, the author, nicknamed Loulou, exercised her incipient sense of injustice by testing the sexist boundaries of her neighborhood synagogue, the Shield of Young David. She modeled herself on the daring, beautiful Emma Peel in The Avengers and managed to attend Vassar and Columbia, and became an investigative journalist. Her memoir is a fully fleshed, moving re-creation of once-vibrant Jewish communities. (Sept.)
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