By Lucette Lagnado
Ecco, $25.99, 402 pages
Author Lucette Lagnado shares her family’s heartbreaking journey as Jewish refugees from Egypt to their new life in New York in The Arrogant Years: One Girl’s Search for Her Lost Youth from Cairo to Brooklyn. She begins the memoir in 1923 with her mother and father, Edith and Leon. Edith has an ill-fated life filled with all sorts of mishaps and maladies. They include losing her much-coveted job after marrying Leon as married women did not work in Cairo, typhoid, the death of an infant and much more. The family is forced to flee Egypt because of building hostilities toward Jews.
It is in New York that Lagnado’s own story truly begins and it mirrors her mother’s in many ways. It is one of heartbreak, beginning with the difficulty of assimilation into a world that is foreign to her, and then is further complicated by a diagnosis from which she never fully recovers. Along the way however, there are bright points and amazing accomplishments by both her and her mother. It is a fascinating and masterfully-told story filled with amazing details of life in Cairo and as a young Jewish girl coming-of-age in Brooklyn. It is a sequel to her previous award-winning book, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit.
Reviewed by Diane Prokop