Again I find myself reading a book that I might not have picked up except for a friend’s recommendation. The Arrogant Years first tells the story of the author’s mother, Edith, growing up in Egypt. And later she tells her own story as she became assimilated in her new country, America. It is a delightful tale full of nuances and picturesque scenes of Egypt and Brooklyn.
It is easy to forget that once upon a time, Jews lived in Egypt as ordinary citizens with their Muslim and Coptic Christian neighbors. Even in the 30′s and during World War II, Jews lived normal lives. Of course it all changed forever in 1956 when Gamal Abdel Nasser came into power and waged war with Israel, Britain & France over the Suez Canal. Then everything changed and those Jews who had passports and were able to fled to France, to Israel, to Australia, to Brazil and to America.
Lucette, who as a child was called LouLou, divided her book into the two parts mentioned earlier; first the story of her mother and then her own story. I understand that Lagnado wrote her first book, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit entirely about her father, Leon. The details of her latest book will charm you as we watch the family and the situation change with the political climate of Egypt. However for a long time, Egypt was just a melting pot of ethnic differences living peacefully side by side.
And now in America so much is different. The children assimilate fairly easily but the parents hold on to feelings and memories of Egypt and how different this new world is for them. This is a warm and wonderful read that I highly recommend!