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The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 6, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 6, 2011
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Editorial Reviews


“The Arrogant Years [is] a paragon of memoir writing, a story about the complex swirl of people and events and forces out of which individual lives are made — some, like Ms. Lagnado’s, more painfully, but also more fully, than others.” (New York Times )

“Lagnado is at her best when she plumbs her own psyche to sort out her life’s ups and downs…a rewarding journey.” (Washington Post)

“Lagnado is a gifted storyteller who spins ordinary family experiences into enchanting fairy tales, complete with magical backdrops...nasty villains and dashing heroes…. Vivid and evocative...tender and heartfelt.” (Kirkus)

 “Lyrical…[Lagnado’s] memoir is a fully fleshed, moving re-creation of once-vibrant Jewish communities.” (Publishers Weekly )

“You don’t have to be Jewish to take this entrancing literary ride…. The Arrogant Years is a lovely book, sad and hilarious by turn, written with love of life, and an enormous affection for language. You will love it too.” (Malachy McCourt, New York Times bestselling author of A Monk Swimming)

“In the radiant presence of Lucette Lagnado herself--and in The Arrogant Years, her moving and unsparingly revelatory second memoir… we have honesty as purity of style, and lucidity as burning emotion, and history as an enduring hymn to resilience.” (Cynthia Ozick)

“[The Arrogant Years] focuses on [Lagnado’s] mother, Edith, and her coming of age in Cairo, and then her own childhood in Brooklyn. Lagnado, who now works for The Wall Street Journal, traces the parallels between the two in this immigrant story.” (New York Post)

“[A]ffecting…Lagnado writes with great affection and compassion for her mother, and she describes displacement and the urgency of memory. Readers... of Sharkskin will again be moved…. It is also a portrait of awe-inspiring caregiving by a loving daughter.” (Jewish Week)

“With precision and searing honesty, Lucette Lagnado writes in The Arrogant Years about her torn allegiances as both an Egyptian Jew growing up in America in the 1960s and ‘70s and the youngest daughter of unhappily married parents.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)

“Weaves together the life stories of several women in a way that will resonate with readers of any ethnicity…Lagnado’s done a fabulous job, again, of transporting us to a multi-ethnic Cairo that no longer exists. That alone is worth the price of admission.” (Library Journal)

“A frank and searching chronicle of lost and found dreams… Lagnado is spellbinding and profoundly elucidating in this vividly detailed and far-reaching family memoir of epic adversity and hard-won selfhood.” (Booklist (starred review))

“[Lagnado’s] writing is tinged with a sense of loss.” (Jewish Woman magazine )

From the Back Cover

The author of the award-winning The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit—hailed by the New York Times book review as a “crushing, brilliant book”—returns with this, the extraordinary follow-up memoir

In The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, Lucette Lagnado offered a heartbreaking portrait of her father, Leon, a successful Cairo boulevardier who was forced to take flight with his family during the rise of the Nasser dictatorship, and of her family’s struggle to rebuild a new life in a new land.

In this much-anticipated new memoir, Lagnado tells the story of her mother, Edith, coming of age in a magical old Cairo of dusty alleyways and grand villas inhabited by pashas and their wives. Then Lagnado revisits her own early years in America—first, as a schoolgirl in Brooklyn’s immigrant enclaves, where she dreams of becoming the fearless Mrs. Emma Peel of The Avengers, and later, as an “avenging” reporter for some of America’s most prestigious newspapers. A stranger growing up in a strange land, when she turns sixteen Lagnado’s adolescence is further complicated by cancer. Its devastating consequences would rob her of her “arrogant years”—the years defined by an overwhelming sense of possibility, invincibility, and confidence. Lagnado looks to the women sequestered behind the wooden screen at her childhood synagogue, to the young coeds at Vassar and Columbia in the 1970s, to her own mother and the women of their past in Cairo, and reflects on their stories as she struggles to make sense of her own choices.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco / HarperCollins (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061803677
  • ASIN: B00A1AD2NQ
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Bloch on September 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Lagnado's "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" was her first memoir and focused on her father and her family's exile from Egypt, where she was born. This new book is about her mother, a brilliant gentle soul whose love of French literature and civilization could not withstand life in 1970s New York City. As in her first book, Lagnado's shimmering prose magically brings the past alive, but her mother's story is even more heartbreaking than her father's, especially in the last years when her fading mother falls into the clutches of uncaring doctors and nursing homes. Lagnado's heroic efforts to preserve her mom's dignity and personal freedom is compelling--and this beautiful memoir should be read alongside Jane Gross's "A Bittersweet Season" to get a full and depressing idea of what the future holds for all of us.
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Format: Hardcover
Lucette Lagnado's "The Arrogant Years" is an elegant and elegiac memoir about her family's life in Cairo and their resettlement in America. Lagnado, an award-winning investigative reporter, invests her writing with so much warmth, humor, and evocative detail that we find ourselves strolling with her down the streets of Cairo; dropping in on her family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn; sitting with her in the woman's section of her synagogue, the Shield of Young David; and accompanying her on her odyssey from a sheltered young woman to an independent and, at times, conflicted adult.

The author's candor, appreciation of her multicultural heritage (Jewish, as well as Arabic and French), and understanding of how the past and the present are intertwined, all breathe life into this account of a youngster who is bright, curious, and always a bit dissatisfied. She alludes to the once Golden Age in Cairo, where Jews held prominent positions and lived with Muslims and Christians in harmony. In fact, Madame Alice Cattaui Pasha, a beautiful and compassionate woman, was one of the wealthiest, grandest, and most influential people in Cairo. The elegant Madame Cattaui, who was Jewish, was the king's confidante. She socialized with eminent men and women, hosted magnificent gatherings, and took time from her busy schedule to lend assistance to impoverished students.

Everything changed in 1956, when many Egyptian Jews started to flee the country to such far-flung locations as Australia and Brazil. In 1963, Lagnado's family traveled briefly to France and then took up residence in Brooklyn. Although they were members of a close-knit community, they were no longer prosperous.
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Format: Hardcover
Almost inconceivable that Lagnado could surpass "Man in the White Sharkskin Suit," but she does exactly that in this haunting and heartbreaking companion memoir. Every single chapter -- no, make that every single page -- seems to grab the reader by the throat, or at least by the lapels, and cast its spell with some of the language's most magical and mesmerizing prose. You don't have to be Sephardic, you don't have to be Jewish, you don't even have to be a fan of "The Avengers" and Emma Peel in her black leather jumpsuit (although it helps) to love this captivating and hypnotic saga of a family that once upon a time in Egypt dined with Kings, created libraries for Pashas -- and then became pariahs and outcasts and wounded birds and broken refugees washed up on the shores of the New World. And yes, I'm a biased critic -- I'm the husband of the author, a (fairly minor) character in her new book, and one who had the supreme pleasure of hearing every single chapter of "The Arrogant Years" read aloud during its creation in Manhattan, Montreal, Sag Harbor, Cairo, Jerusalem, Paris, London, Geneva and Milan. -- Douglas Feiden, New York City
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Lucette Lagnado first wrote memorably about her father in The Man in the Sharkskin Suit. This sequel is built around her mother Edith, a literary talent whose career in Egypt as teacher and librarian to the pasha's wife was cut short by an early marriage and children. The story also concentrates on the author's childhood and youth in Egypt then Brooklyn, her self absorption and arrogance, her determination to right wrongs and pursue justice. By the end of the book she has come full circle, to the realization that the women's section of the synagogue she was trying to break out of was the only place she had known warmth and security. The last chapters describe how her elderly mother was treated in a nursing home, a horror story that will chill the heart of anyone who possesses one. Lagnado's sensitivity is profound and her determination to illuminate truth can only be called courageous. Her book is filled with descriptions of clothes she hungered after as a child, but as she matures, she has researched the dispersal of the once thriving community of Jews of Egypt. Yet you do not have to be an Egyptian Jew to identify with her story. I was deeply moved, coming from a very enclosed religious community myself. I have often felt like a foreigner in America, although I was born here. Lucette Lagnado writes beautifully, simply, whole-heartedly. How I wish I knew someone like her in this strange country, New York.
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