|The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World (P.S.)
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Lucette Lagnado's father, Leon, is a successful Egyptian businessman and boulevardier who, dressed in his signature white sharkskin suit, makes deals and trades at Shepherd's Hotel and at the dark bar of the Nile Hilton. After the fall of King Farouk and the rise of the Nasser dictatorship, Leon loses everything and his family is forced to flee, abandoning a life once marked by beauty and luxury to plunge into hardship and poverty, as they take flight for any country that would have them.
A vivid, heartbreaking, and powerful inversion of the American dream, Lucette Lagnado's unforgettable memoir is a sweeping story of family, faith, tradition, tragedy, and triumph set against the stunning backdrop of Cairo, Paris, and New York.
Winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and hailed by the New York Times Book Review as a "brilliant, crushing book" and the New Yorker as a memoir of ruin "told without melodrama by its youngest survivor," The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit recounts the exile of the author's Jewish Egyptian family from Cairo in 1963 and her father's heroic and tragic struggle to survive his "riches to rags" trajectory.
- An Uplifting Elegy
Lucette Lagnado's Man in the White Sharkskin suit is a lovely and heartfelt elegy to Cairo's Jewish community of the 1940s and early 1950s.
Lagnado's father, a skilled and wealthy merchant and boulevardier, is the last patriarch of the Cairo branch of a distinguished Syrian Jewish clan. After taking a wife some 20 years his junior, Lagnado builds a three-generation family in a romantic Cairo of the years immediately following World War II. In his daughter's hands, this Cairo becomes the stuff of dreams, evoking lavish lifestyles amidst an urban streetscape of rose petal peddlers, produce vendors, seamstresses, synagogues, doctors and mystical healers. Would that we all might experience the beauty of this Cairo. The Lagnado family's place at the epicenter of this remarkable richness sets the tone for Man in the White Sharkskin Suit.
The second half of the memoir sets the Lagnado family afloat, cut from Cairo by the growing anti-Semitism of Nasser's Egypt. Accompanied by nothing other than trunks of beautifully made clothing-- ultimately unused-- the Lagnado clan leaves Egypt for an increaasingly precarious existence in Paris and then Brooklyn.
Many have framed this journey as the depiction of a family collapse. I saw it differently. While the Lagnado family fortune was captured by the Nasser government, leaving the family to emigrate penniless, the indomitable spirit of Lagnado's father continues to shine in France and, ultimately, in America. The Lagnados continue to value their heritage and honor it, more perfectly than not. That Lucette Lagnado so beautifully captures her father in this memoir is a tribute to the indomitability of his spirit, as well as to Cairo's lost Jewish community....more info
- Griping Family Sage and wonderful slice of history
The Man in the White Sharkskin suite is a stunning work, in it's emotional depth against a period of history I knew little about. The author/narrator tells the story of her family, particularly her father, as they thrive in Egypt under King Farouk, then, literally overnight, lose their material possisions, family and promience but not their humanity and dignity when Nassar comes to power. Their 'before' life was vibrant and full materially, but emotionally fraught with tensions of all sort especially between the husband, Leon and the wife, Edith. The author uses the point of view of the youngest member of the family, Loulou who can barely understand what's happening but acts bravely for her father's sake and for his love. The author writes beautifully, and with such poignancy, but never with self pity or malicious anger regarding the family's fall. By the time the family arrives in America, they are completely lost as they stand on the dock watching the big cars go down the West Side Highway. The great symbol of American prosperity, yet the cars and the dream they represent pass the family by. They never regain the life they longed for, except in the success of Loulou who becomes an award winning journalist and now author. I feel that Leon would be thrilled that, against his advice to this daughter to find a 'little job', she found her calling and restored the family legacy and told the greater story, through the Lagnado saga, of the history of Egyptian Jews of that time.
A wonderful read....more info
- The Arab Jew who taught me kindness and love
Although I was aware of the diasopora of Arab Jews after the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine , I personally did not know any who actually suffered. I only experienced the suffering of Palestinians because of the same event. This is simply because I was borne in Amman in East Jordan where very few if any Jews lived then or now. This book opened my eyes to the life of Egyptian Jews and other Jews who lived peacefully with their Arab Moslem and Christian neighbors for hundreds of years till the establishement of the State of Israel when it became politically unacceptable for the failed politicians of the Arab states to show courage and protect them. I am not here to incriminate any side in this long saga of Palestine/Israel. I am here to state that Leon the Arab Jew in the White Sharkskin Suit could have been my own father or older brother. He reminded so much of my own people. This story is full of sadness, love and affection and no incrimination. Leon was a casuality of horrible circumstances and like every man of honor tried to manage as much as he can. He kept his pride and spirituality. The story as written by Lou Lou his beloved daughter is also very kind to every one inculding the Arab people who her father was proud to be one of. Congratualtions to Ms Lagnado for a well written story and a very kind account. ...more info
- Sentimental, passionate but not totally fair
This is one of many books telling the heart breaking experience of egyptian jews suffering after 1948. It tells about the elegant fascinating life in egypt at that time.
however, it was not fair enough to tell the true status of egyptian jews and the attitude of egyptians toward them.
Before zionist movemnt, Egyptian jews enjoyed very high esteemed position in the society. they occupied high rank status in the government and many of them were successful rich bussiness people. Amazingly to say that more than 35% of big bussiness in Egypt was run by Jews. There were never discrimination neither persectuion against them.
Ironically, there were many zionist offices in Egypt to collect donation and help for poor jews of the world and help jews persecuted in Germany. Evenmore, Haeim Wizman visited Egypt to collect donation and support. The tragedy against jews started when the zionist movement declared frankly to sweep out Palestainian and creat a state by force.
At that moment many jews in Arab world were misjudged as spys to state of israel and as having loyality to israel. Long time agao, there were clubs, magazines, schools, hospitals and many social activities for the jews in Egypt and they enjoyed the highest standards in life.
But everything changed after the evil side of zionizm show its face...more info
- the man in the sharksin suit
THIS STORY SHOWS HOW HARD IT IS TO ADJUST TO A NEW WAY OF LIFE.THE PAST AND ONE'S OWN HISTORY PLAYS A LOT IN HOW WE AND OUR FAMILIES TAKE TO NEW PLACES, PEOPLE AND EXPERIENCES....more info
A nicely written and powerful story of a daughter's close relationship with her father set against a wrenching departure from a beloved Arab city. The family travels in exile from a once openly friendly culture to the coldness of New York City, via Paris. And, from a comfortable life somewhere up the economic ladder down to a rung of great financial need.
A deep Jewish faith, undoubted love, and the will to persist are gifts bestowed upon the author by her flawed but quietly heroic father....more info
- beautifully written
What a wonderful book. In may ways it is a book that anyone who's family has immigrated from another country can identify with and enjoy. She is a wonderful writer, you will find yourself laughing out loud at some passages and terribly sad at others, but it is worth reading. I enjoyed every page and have already passed it on to others who feel the same way. Don't pass this one up....more info
- Eye-opener to a Sephardic Jewish family in Cairo
This is one of the best books I have ever read! There are too few stories about Sephardic Jews from the Middle East. I had no idea about Cairo being so cosmopolitan in the 1920s to 1940s. As an Ashkenazi Jew the Jewish stories I'm familiar with are mostly of Jews from Europe and Russia. This is extremely well-written and compelling. The characters are intimately portrayed, and the story moves along quickly. I couldn't put it down. This is a book that I'm recommending to all my friends and family....more info
- It is a small world
This is a Jewel of a book. I am so amazed how the experiences of the Egyptian Jews can be so varied yet so similar. It is an eye opener as well as an education for people unfamiliar with the forgotten refugees from Arab lands. Similarly, I have documented my life's story in the newly released book: "EXODUS II The Promised Land." It is for the reader who is seeking information on the History of Egypt and the resident Jews from 1945 to 1964.
Bravo Lou Lou for a well-written and exciting book.Exodus II The Promised Land...more info
- The Man in the Sharkskin Suit
This is a true story about a proud family patriarch, his relationships and most notably the one with his youngest daughter, who is the author of the book. This prominent Egyptian family is forced to leave their home when Jews were no longer able to live safely in Egypt. The story focuses on the difficult choice to abandon all that is familiar, for a journey into the unknown. The family lands in Paris, and eventually settles in New York. This is a family that had wealth and importance but becomes dependent on social services and the Jewish community for daily living. It is a slow read, but stays with the reader....more info
- Survival Skills
Lucette Lagnado's beautifully told story of her father and family illuminated for me the factors necessary for group and individual survival. This is the story of her father's decline in a foreign environment, whereas he and his family prospered in their native Cairo. She points to the coldness of New York versus the warmth and fellow feeling in Cairo. The denial of a $2000 loan to her father to open a candy store by the Jewish resettlement agency, is one example. And yet a generous (non-Jewish) American doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering treated the author as a teenager without pay and saved her life when she had Hodgkin's Disease. I think the moral of the book, one moral, is that without kindness one cannot survive. The immigrant agencies that tended to the refugees were peopled by petty bureaucrats, especially one Sylvia Kirschner, who looked down on the author's father as culturally backward and religiously fanatic. The cultural gap between New York and Cairo was ultimately unbridgeable, except by a young child who could understand both cultures. This is a lesson to America in its dealings with Islam. ...more info
- excellent book- I enjoyed reading it
I enjoyed reading this book. When I'm anxious to get back to reading a book that shows how good it is. Some books I wish they would finish. Not this one. I was sorry when it ended. It was very informative. I learned facts that I didn't know before. I like that. Always want to learn new things. ...more info
- no problems
arrived on time with no problems; it's nice to save a few dollars here and there...more info
- Leaving Egypt....Again
Lagnado, Lucette. "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family's Exodus from Cairo to the New World", HarperCollins, 2007.
Amos Lassen and Literary Pride
Perhaps the most significant event in the course of Jewish history is the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. It was during this exodus that what we know today as the Jewish religion was formulated. It was then that the Mosaic code was given to the world and the basis for all modern law was established. That was over 2000 years ago. Along comes a new memoir of a different kind of exodus--same starting location, same basic reason for beginning the trek. What is different is the destination. Lucette Lagnado in "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" tells how her father, Leon, reacted early on after escaping the anti-Semitic thrust of the government of Egypt under Gamal Nasser and this was just 45 years ago.
The ending of the story is not so happy. Leon comes to America and enjoys a successful and happy life. But it is not that clear-cut. The reality is that the fate of the Lagnado family lay far away from a victory that we all expect the narratives of immigrants to be. This is not a pretty story and it paints an entirely different picture of America--one that we rarely, if ever, see.
The Lagnado family had close ties with Cairo, having lived there for generations until they were blatantly forced out by the anti-Semitism of the Nasser government. Lagnado describes this experience as a "cultural Holocaust". Synagogues closed because no one went, cemeteries were looted and Jewish merchants closed their shops. There was a complete shut-down of Jewish life all over Egypt but especially in Cairo. It was a catastrophe for Egypt as so many intellectual lives were shuttered. This book is the story of what happened and it is indeed a holocaust.
Leon Lagnado was a renaissance man. He spoke seven languages and was charismatic and loved by all who knew him. He conduced secret business which was so private that members f his own family knew nothing about it. At night he was a man about town and visited he "in" places--places where the king of Egypt himself would visit. He was also a good Jew who prayed at the synagogue every day.
He married a girl who was twenty years younger than him and they bought a house where they lived together with his mother) a Middle-Eastern tradition) and a nephew and he and his wife had five children (one died right after birth). Leon was a man between two worlds--religious and secular.
Leon developed a very special relationship with his daughter Lucette (Loulou). She was his kindred spirit. She wrote this book in which she manages to bring us the characters in her family with such clarity and vivacity that they seem to become members of our own families. Likewise Cairo becomes our home town. The detail in the book is quite amazing and obviously a great deal of research went into the writing. Every little fact is elaborated upon.
There are sections of the book that read like a thriller--the suspense is that sharp. When she writes of Nasser's rise to power, Lagnado is incredible. The beauty of her prose builds an atmosphere that takes you right to the scene.
Leon managed to stay in Egypt for ten years after Nasser became head of the government and would have probably stayed if he had not been harassed into leaving. He felt his family was no longer safe in Cairo and they began a long journey through Europe ultimately landing in New York.
Life in America was not easy for Leon; he was not well and his heart had been broken by his homeland. He had a rough time with the social workers who worked with new immigrants and he did not adjust to America well. He never bounced back and his family began to fall apart. They all missed Cairo desperately and wanted to return to the place that they were glad to have left.
When Lagnado was invited to return by the Egyptian government many years later what she found was not the Cairo that her family had left. Cairo was no longer the beautiful star of Africa and the situation of the Jews of the city was not good. But Lagnado gives us a view of Cairo that s rich and beautiful and the book is a monument to a time that was.
This is my favorite book of the year. It combines all of my interests - Jewish history, family struggles, impact of culture, and so much more. The author spent her early years in Egypt and the family was forced out by anti-semitism. While in Egypt, they lived a glamorous life for many years, but with a father whose moods ranged from loving to abusive. From there they entered a generation of poverty. The writing is beautiful. Too often personal memoirs seem to wane 1/2 way through, but this book continued to engage me and I really didn't want it to end....more info
- an absolute pleasure
As 3rd and 4th generation descendants of Eastern European Jews raised in the New York area we were amazed and puzzled when in the 60's a large population of Syrian Jews settled in our area. They looked different from us, ate different foods, spoke different languages and prayed very differently. There culture was very similar to that of non-Jewish Arab people and pretty much kept to themselves. We found it very difficult to relate to them as Jews and there was often an atmosphere of suspicion and conflict between our two groups. Even though I am now a senior citizen grandma this beautiful book was the first time I got an insight into the fascinating and beautiful culture of Syrian Jews--who they are, how and why they got to be my neighbors. I am grateful to this talented author for opening my eyes and heart!!!...more info
- An Excellent Read
I'd been meaning to read Lucette Lagnado's family memoir for awhile. Learning that the book had won the 2008 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature motivated me to actually pick it up. This past weekend, I finished reading the book. And it's an excellent read.
Given what often seems an unending stream of memoir-related scandals, not to mention the primacy of what I'll charitably call the dysfunction narrative (and of course the interrelationship between the two), reading THE MAN IN THE WHITE SHARKSKIN SUIT is a gift. Not only does the author focus on a story that's truly fresh (in this case, the story of a Jewish family's history in Syria and Egypt and the massive dislocation it experienced in 1962 when emigrating from Egypt, first to France and then to the United States). Not only does she include authentic "evidence," including photographs, documents, and file citations from the social service agencies that worked with her immigrant family in Paris and New York. But she also presents rounded portraits of multiple "characters," especially her parents (her father, Leon, is the eponymous man in the white sharkskin suit) and grandparents (especially her two grandmothers). An exercise in navel-gazing, this is surely not. It's not until late in the book that the author's own life-threatening medical problems--which another writer, especially in this Age of the Misery Memoir, might have chosen to make the subject of an entire book, and which are artfully presaged in earlier chapters--take center stage. Even then, it's the effect of her illness on those around her rather than her own suffering that seems to matter more.
What will you get from reading this book? You'll get a sense of the culture of a Levantine Jewish community, one that I, for one, previously knew only superficially (mostly through stories about the in-laws of one of my mother's close friends). You'll get some history, of World War II and the Suez crisis. You'll get stories of Jewish immigrants in France and Israel and the United States. You'll get the texture of Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s. You'll get the almost unimaginably shocking story of what happened to one of Lagnado's maternal uncles at the hands of Lagnado's own grandfather. You'll get the triumphs and the tragedies of her family, and you'll get, in particular, a sense of the deep bond between Lagnado and that extraordinary man in the white sharkskin suit. Don't miss it.
- A Wonderful and Tragic Family Saga
This is a wonderful and tragic story of a Jewish family who lived in Egypt until the early 1960's when conditions made it very difficult for them to stay. The author tells the story of her grandparents and her parents in wonderful detail, and takes the reader with her on their exodus from Egypt to become refugees in France and then new immigrants to the United States. This book is a must for anyone who wants to learn about the story of Jewish life in Egypt in the 20th century, which came to a sad end as a result of the hostility of Egyptian government towards Israel. The author focuses on the personal story and avoids politics, and shows a graceful attitude without any bitterness towards the country which made her family leave....more info
- A love letter to a city, and to her father
Lucette Lagnado writes movingly and with genuine affection for the life her family knew in "Old Cairo", especially for the common humanity strangers had for each other. As she says, when her father fell in the street early in the morning on his way to synagogue, he was immediately surrounded by a swarm of people- no one kept on walking if you fell in the street in Cairo. That was the Cairo I knew, when I left in 1970.
I confess I bought the book originally because friends, relatives, even near-strangers who had read "The Cairo House," urged me to read "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit," and they were right, even though our backgrounds were so different.
I found the book eye-opening and disturbing to many of my assumptions. I didn't realize there were Egyptian Jews, like her father and grandmother, who felt disoriented in Brooklyn or Israel. When I was young, I thought the reason my father, an Egyptian Muslim, never considered emigrating, even if he had been allowed, was that only in Egypt would people know who he was. Later I realized that it was only in Egypt that he himself would know who he was. Perhaps it was the same for the sixty-year-old Leon Lagnado, who had never traveled outside of Egypt before, in spite of his Anglophilia and his francophonia and his boulevardier airs.
Neither did I realize that there were Jewish families who were allowed to take only 200 pounds with them when they left after the socialist decrees of 1961. I remember an aunt of mine, severely ill, who had to wait for months for the government to give her permission to travel to England for treatment in the sixties, and then she was allowed only 50 pounds, and was mortified to have to admit to her husband's former agent in London, who had booked her into a fine hotel, that she could not afford to spend even one night there.
Lagnado's book is written from the heart, a saga of collected family anecdotes, and there are fuzzy areas where elucidation would have been welcome, but these omissions do not detract from this compelling, touching memoir. At the very end, she returns to Cairo and finds her few points of reference- the flat in Ghamra, the synagogue, Groppi's- dilapidated in dingy downtown Cairo. My old Cairo is gone, as well, my Garden City choking in the overcrowding and noise and traffic and pollution and ugly construction. So I can understand Lagnado's disillusionment.
The book left me with a powerful nostalgia to turn back the clock to Cairo's heyday as a diverse, vibrant, open-hearted city, and as Lagnado remarks, in Cairo, in the midst of despair, there is always hope, so as we say, Inshallah.
- great read...moving story
Very well written, a moving story that almost any-age reader can enjoy. My 84 year old mother who often falls asleep reading,stayed up until the 2 AM to finish the book and then called me in the morning and asked that I read this so we could discuss. My children will read this next. You don't need to be Jewish or of Middle Eastern descent to enjoy the poignancy of their story....more info
- Man in the White Sharkskin Suit
A wonderful insight into a glorious time in Egypt. It is written with a great eye and a heavy heart. Another tale of how the Jews had to flee a country they thought was home....more info
- A Tribute to a Father
This book was much more than I expected. In reading the other reviews, I knew that it had high marks, I knew that it was a book about fleeing one country and ending in another, I knew it was about Anti- Semitism, I knew it was about an old world family and Cairo at a time when it was the Middle East version of Paris etc., However, I was floored by the authors description of her relationship with her father. I think the book is more about that relationship while the leaving Cairo theme is 2nd. The authors description of that relationship was heartwarming and I was so emotionally touched. This book is indeed a tribute to her father.
On a personal note, and I do hope the author reads this, her description of her intimate and wonderful relationship with her father was very similar to my relationship with my father. The pride, determination etc., were traits that my father possessed as well. My father lost a long battle with cancer 4/07. This book helped me remember those good times we had, the walks, the "going to work with my Dad", the holding hands etc., I truly thank the author very much. This book was right on time for me. Thanks again!! ...more info
- Reads like a screenplay
This is a well written book. It is a family history, portrayed through the eyes of a litle girl who ages as the story progresses. She worships her father--the Man in the White Sharkskin Suit--, yet is not blind to his lapses and frailties as a human being.
Every family has a history, and a cast of characters. The tragic relative; the family member who died young, the braggart, the ne'er do well, the one about whom we do not speak, the patriarch, the rich uncle, the apostate--all comprise our individual families. We all have a story, but here the author makes hers come alive. It is easy to visualize her family's migration and trials as a screenplay or movie.
We learn about the author's parents' post-war courtship in Cairo, and the relative prosperity and freedom they enjoyed in the country ruled by King Farouk. We see the upheaval following the Suez Crisis and Nassar's ascendency, and the family's reaction and adaptation. We are witnesses to their daily triumphs and tragedies in the face of rising anti-semitism. Leon's reliance on his faith, his wife's coping skills and issues of illness, and death.
This is one family's journey from Cairo to Paris to Brooklyn, the constancy of their faith and culture and the rise and fall of their fortunes. It is a human story. The locale may change, but it is a story that is part of all of us....more info
- A new perspective
The Man in The White Sharkskin Suit provides a unique view of emmigration - in most reports of Jews leaving a country because of persecution or anti-Semitism and going to America, the US is painted as the land of hope. In this book, the America that welcomed the Lagnado family did not open her arms wide and gather them in. It is a similar tale to the one I heard growing up from my own parents who came to the US as survivors of the Holocaust. While Egypt of the 40's no longer exists, I dreamed of going to the Cairo of Lucette Lagnado's memoir. I could taste the cakes, hear the music and smell the roses. ...more info
- a diminished life
This book details the survival of an Egyptian Jewish family after leaving Egypt and contrasts it with what seemed to be a charmed life before leaving. The author writes well and gives the narrative much charm and many important details ; some of the details seemed to me skewed by the age of the writer as child and some perceptions seem unrealistic . But it is a very enjoyable and edifying description of the life of expulsion and resettlement that refugees go through....more info
- The Man in the White Shark Skin Suit
This book is a very compelling read. It mostly told through the eyes of a child living through her families heart wrenching need to leave their home that they loved. They lived in Cairo when Jews were only tolerated there. But due to the father's smarts and savy they were able to live well and enjoy the best possible life in Cairo. You learn all about their family trials and tribulations. The family relationships and tolerance in this story are very captivating. I do not wish to spoil this story for anyone that would like to read this memoir. This is a must read. ...more info
This is a wonderful book, always interesting, and successful in conveying Lagnado's feelings about her family and the worlds she inhabited, now as an adult looking back, but especially her feelings as a child. Lagnado had a rich vein of material to explore thanks to the facts of her childhood and the characters who peopled it, especially her father and maternal grandmother. Their personalities come across as vividly as in a fine work of fiction. Lagnado begins her life as an upper class Jewish Egyptian, but spends much of her childhood as a poor immigrant in New York City, with a sojourn in Paris in between, during which the family survived as a ward of charities. Not only does Lagnado write very well, but she is disciplined in what to include and not include. A little too disciplined: I would have loved to know a bit more about her sister's adult life, but I can see how this would not fit. Even so, I recommend reading the acknowledgements, for what additional insight they bring. And according to the internet, if you get to New York, you can still visit the bakery mentioned in the book on Kings Highway, Brooklyn.
A speculation: is it possible the reason Lucette's doctor was so angry with her father and warned Lucette not to follow her father's advice, was because he feared she would be unduly influenced in choice of treatment option, and didn't trust her father's motives?
- Accurate Portrayal
My parents were actually Egyptian Jews living in Cairo and Alexandria in the 1950s and fled in the mid 50s due to Nasser's tyranny. My mother has been reading the book the past week and has goose bumps reading essentially the same story, addresses, schools, bakery, cafes etc. of her life. True, every family's story is slightly different, but the facts are essentially identical. My mother and her family lived this story and actually knew some of the people in the story. Well done to Lucette on shedding light on a part of history that many do not know - only the Holocaust is focused on. So many Egyptian Jews lost their livelihood, fortunes, property and dignity simply because of their religion. ...more info
- Great book
I couldn't put this book down. There's a lot of history as well as the personal story of a family's experiences....more info
- Sara B.
This book is not one that stuck with me after reading it. I found the author to be repetitive. Where else but in America can one find free medical treatment. And who paid for the education at Vassar? Too bad Papa didn't decide to immigrate to Israel....more info
- The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit
A well written glimpse into the Levantine experience as the world around them changed the from the 1940s to present time. ...more info
- Incredibly moving
Anyone who loves Cairo will be enthralled with this personal account of life in the charmed city in the 1940s and 1950s. It is a deeply personal story by a young woman with unbelievable powers of observation. She is a good reporter but more than that a fine recorder of her family's trials and tribulations moving from gentle, bustling Cairo to the brutal Booklyn of the 1960s. Will keep you up all night......more info
- Sad commentary on the American dream
Lucette Lagnado's love and respect for her father is felt on each page. It must have been wonderful to live in old Cairo where different nationalities and religions could exist peacefully. This book tugged at my heart for her father, Leon, who was a prominent businessman that lived the cosmopolitan life and was free to practice his religion. When everything is stripped away from him with the fall of King Farouk and Nasser's nationalization politics, the reader doesn't have to imagine how rampant anti-Semitism is all over the world, America is not what is advertised. I think this book is timely since it appears we Americans have recently lost many civil liberties and thus our intergrity.
- Outstanding memoir
This memoir captures the time period (1940's to present) perfectly. The author evokes the sounds and spirit of the Middle East and gives the reader great insight into a family as it moves from belonging to feeling alienated and as outsiders in Egypt. She also creates the atmosphere one can touch and feel once they immigrate to the US in the 1960's. ...more info
- One writer's gift of fairy dust
Lucette Lagnado in "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" sprinkles words that magically create drama, poignancy, sadness,and joy in what must be the fall's finest memoir. It is a timeless story of family, fidelity, and fate. Enormously appealing, the book a moving account of hearts and souls in exodus. ...more info
- Elektra in Nasser's Egypt
I enjoyed this book but wish the author had toned her Oedipal romanticism concerning her father and his playboy lifestyle during the years when they lived in Cairo. Glamorizing his adulterous and selfish behavior during the early years of his marriage was overdone. That part of the book would have benefitted from judicious editing. There is too much repetition, especially about the rumor that he had once had an affair with a popular Egyptian entertainer.The daughter is obviously imagining a father; this part gets out-of-control. Once the family leaves Nasser's Egypt and the father turns his affections towards the narrator,his daughter, the story takes on a new honesty and from there on through their years in New York, the book is totally absorbing and quite believable. I have read many immigrant sagas and this is one of the best. ...more info
- Compelling but in the end disappointing
The first part of the book in Cairo, as others have mentioned before me, was intriguing for a reader like me who loves to read about people and places outside of my sphere of experience. And especially I seem to be drawn to Middle Eastern/African settings.
The elegant Cairo of a long gone era was very interesting as were the family members.
But the book went downhill in the second half. I kept hoping for a larger understanding from the author and a comprehension and conclusions drawn about her family and their situation that would raise it above the whine level.
And as an animal lover as much as I tried the nagging thoughts of how the cats who were so much a part of their family were cast aside so easily became symbolic of the family's ethics in general.
So basically I ended the book feeling more sorry for the abandoned cats than the family members who I increasingly found harder to like....more info
- A wonderful experience
A very moving real story, typical and representative of new immigrants experience. I learned a lot about the life of Jews in Egypt. Highly recommended. ...more info
- THE MAN IN THE WHITE SHARKSKIN SUIT
This is a must-read for psychologists, educators, historians, politicians -- anyone who wants to understand this vastly under-reported period which caused so many to suffer trauma and dislocation.
THE MAN IN THE WHITE SHARKSKIN SUIT is a story about one family exile and one man's downfall -- it is in fact the story of the tragic exile of the entire Jewish community of Egypt.
Written in graceful, simple, easy-to-read prose, Lucette Lagnado makes you relive her past and your own as she takes you step by step through her family's bitter journey
- beautiful, unique, and deeply touching
There are very few memoirs as deep and beautiful, as compassionate and tender, as this one of a young girl born to a loving, devout, but old world Jewish patriarch in the last decades of elegant Cairo in the 1950's. Shortly after all the Jews would flee and be scattered in exile: from an elegant, ordered life, they would face hunger and poverty first in Paris and then in New York where the father, now old and sick, would try to reestablish himself in a business and the children would find their own way in this strange new country.
An extraordinary memoir. There are only a few I have read ever which come near it. ...more info
- A captivating and gripping drama: the egyptian jews exodus and the touching story of a family in serach of "home"
This is the story of Lucette Lagnado and her family...in recounting the odissey of her family emigrating to America, she touches on the greater story of the egyptian jewry. Their rites, their customes, their rigid set of morals that regulated the community...It is the story of a bygone era and the people that died bringing the last bit of those values with them.
I can't stop enough to praise Mrs. Lagando for making me feel part of her family...in reading her book I got to know all members of her family on first name basis...the more I progressed in reading it the more I started to feel I intimately knew the charactes...one almost starts to worry along for their tribulations, hoping desperately that the eventually a miracle would occur...and that the family would reunite back in Cairo, where Leon would wear his signature white sharkskin suits and the cat would lounge on the balcony of their first floor apartment...Alas! "Dieu est grand" but not grand enough to grant all of our wishes...
An amazing read...i heartly recommend it...more info
- Wow -- so well written and interesting
I could barely put this book down. Not only are the events of the author's life interesting, but the details and descriptions are so breathtaking, emotionally real; I learned to much about a country I find fascinating, but also about a peoples who though "oriental" Jews, are of the same ethnic background of myself, a child of Ashkenazi Jews. So much of the story, though different than mine, appeals to the human side of life, my life anyway. You find yourself loving these people, knowing them, understanding them, feeling for them. The final chapters caused me to cry. This is one of my favorite books, and I will purchase it! I've already recommend this book to several Egyptian Muslim friends, to Jewish friends (some of whom, like myself, harken from Brooklyn)....more info