The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn
“Locked together by the author, past and present radiate in this fervent tale of achievement, abandonment, influence, and rejection. . . . From the palace halls of Cairo to the tenement halls of Brooklyn, this is a saga of constant striving, of eternal love and adoration, and of a restless pursuit for social equality. . . . Lucette Lagnado is a dazzling and expressive writer. Her tender reflection upon her mother’s life in Egypt as well as her own growth to maturity in Brooklyn makes The Arrogant Years breathtaking and gripping.”
The Arrogant Years is the poignant and touching story of a Jewish family’s strength in the face of myriad obstacles: from prominence in Egypt to obscurity in America, from wealthy to working class, from illness to heath, from Brooklyn to Vassar and beyond.
Ms. Lagnano proffers a tale of how her mother was accepted into the highest echelon of Egyptian society and later lowered to the status of the unwanted. This memoir is a vivid and evocative portrait of a family’s struggle against discrimination.
The author’s dramatic personal account presents the experience of growing up as a minority in a majority Muslim land. Later, as a young liberal Jewish woman in 1960s America, Ms. Lagnano battles cancer within herself and bias from within her own religious community.
Ms. Lagnano gave us The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, an expansive portrait of her father in a struggle against massive prejudice in Egypt and his effort to rebuild the family in America.
In this new memoir, she delivers the powerful story of her mother, Edith, in a magical Egyptian carpet ride of audacity and faith. A beautiful, bright and sensitive woman, Edith must deal with a host of pitfalls and travails.
This is a tale of pashas and princesses, of Jews dining with Egyptian royalty, of sadness and frustration as a former life is wiped away by circumstance and an inappropriate marriage. Later, The Arrogant Years becomes the story of a young American daughter who resists the traditional tenants of Orthodox Judaism in favor of women’s liberation and a burning need to assimilate into contemporary American culture.
Through Edith, Ms. Lagnano introduces us to a stunning Golden Age of Cairo, when Egyptian Jews can hold prestigious positions within the royal Egyptian family. Befriending the Pasha’s wife, Edith becomes loyal teacher and librarian to the first family. Here, Ms. Lagnano delivers a touching and tender examination of Edith’s powerful reach in an Egypt long bereft of equality and egalitarianism.
It is also the story of the young Ms. Lagnano in America who rebels against the strict paternal statutes of Orthodox Judaism. Here we find a young woman of the American 1960s bursting with passion for equality and human rights. In violating the orthodox synagogue section designated only for men, Ms. Lagnano publicly expresses her courage and commitment to gender equity.
Locked together by the author, past and present radiate in this fervent tale of achievement, abandonment, influence, and rejection. Edith falls from grace and from a desperate and unrewarding marriage. The family falls from bumping heads with aristocracy to searching for safety and security.
From the palace halls of Cairo to the tenement halls of Brooklyn, this is a saga of constant striving, of eternal love and adoration, and of a restless pursuit for social equality.
In the end, after assimilating into American culture, after fighting for her mother’s care in a nursing home, Ms. Lagnano reaches into her past to find a sense of security and warmth lacking in her contemporary life.
Lucette Lagnado is a dazzling and expressive writer. Her tender reflection upon her mother’s life in Egypt as well as her own growth to maturity in Brooklyn makes The Arrogant Years breathtaking and gripping.