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The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  437 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
“[Lagnado writes] in crystalline yet melodious prose.”
New York Times

Lucette Lagnado’s acclaimed, award-winning The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit (“[a] crushing, brilliant book” —New York Times Book Review) told the powerfully moving story of her Jewish family’s exile from Egypt. In her extraordinary follow-up memoir, The Arrogant Years, Lagnado revisits her first years
ebook, 416 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Ecco
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Oct 25, 2015 Brina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish-books, memoirs
Lucette Lagnado is a gem of a writer whose two memoirs Man in a Sharkskin Suit and now The Arrogant Years have captivated me. This second memoir writes of her mother's life and then her own in America.
I found Edith a complex person of faith. In Sharkskin Suit I saw her as timid and weak and unable to stand up to her husband Leon. It was as though once she married, her vivid life had ended. Yet once in America, her daughter paints a different picture. It is Edith who struggles to maintain the Le
Doug Feiden
Oct 07, 2011 Doug Feiden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Leora Wenger
Lucette Lagnado is back to tell us more of her family's tale. This book focuses on her mother and on her own youthful teenage years in Brooklyn and later in college. The prologue is a tale of her challenging the status quo in her little synagogue in Brooklyn, regarding the mehitza (the divider between men and women). The book then travel backs to Egypt and early stories of her mother as a teacher. The title of the book refers to a period in a young woman's life when she feels confident and invin ...more
Katz Nancy from NJ
Several years ago a book was highly touted as an example of what it means to emigrate to a new country, this case the United States. The title of this non-fiction book was The Man in the White Sharskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado. This book is about the author's family and The Man in the White Sharkskin suit was Lucette Lagnado's father Leon, a wealthy Egyptian Jew who lived the good life in Cairo. But in 1956, when the King was deposed, many of the Egyptians including those of the Jewish faith left ...more
Rayna Forman
I loved this author's first book, Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, which was one of my favorite books of the last few years, but was somewhat leery about reading this book, as I had heard people say that it wasn't nearly as good. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the book. However, too me it felt like a bunch of short stories put together to make a novel. Any one of the chapters could have probably stood on its own.

Although I am Jewish, I am very unfamiliar with the Jewish people who lived in Egypt, Syr
I read THE MAN IN THE WHITE SHARKSKIN SUIT with a book club. Many of the members said that they wanted to know more about Edith, Lulu's mother. Well, this book gives you more about Edith. It is basically the same story with more details about the women in the Lagnado family.
Samantha Kupferman
Loved this book. It very much resonated for me. I felt it was honest, comprehensive, and also amusing. Worth a read.
Apr 09, 2012 Ariela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Made me want to drink: Turkish coffee.
Thomas Hübner
Aug 26, 2014 Thomas Hübner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

As readers of Andre Aciman's wonderful memoir Out of Egypt will know, Egypt was until the 1950s home of a Levantine Jewish community that lived for most of its history comparatively well integrated and respected in this part of the world.

Multi-cultural Cairo and Alexandria were at that time home to many religious and ethnic minorities that over the centuries had learned to cope with each other in a - mostly - peaceful way. Many members of the Jewish community l
Crystal Mendoza
Jan 02, 2012 Crystal Mendoza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first learned of this book while listening to NPR (much to my father's dismay), and my initial thought was that I would not like this book at all considering it's highly educational and non-fictional. Taking into account the distress that is currently occurring in Egypt with the civil rights movement and governmental reform, it was enlightening to read about the bureaucratic distress that occurred during Lagnado's mother's time. Comparing issues between then and now was the most interesting po ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dena Bass
Nov 08, 2012 Dena Bass rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author's previous book focused mainly on her relationship with her father during their forced journey from Egypt to New York. This book concentrates on the author's relationship with her mainly during the New York years. Three things stood out to me in this book
1). Most religions have a past and sometimes current history of subjugation of women. The Egyptian Jews were definitely in this category. Women were not "allowed to work" after they were married.
2). Interestingly, the author's father
I think this was a fairly good memoir. I liked learning about Egypt in the fifties, but I felt that the author often told us things she should have demonstrated. We hear that the mother is brilliant: we never hear her brilliance first hand. Even when she knocks off an essay her daughter needs for a Vassar French class, we don't see the essay so we don't know how wonderful it really is. People loved Lagnado's previous book, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, which I haven't read, but I found th ...more
Feb 07, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ne
Feb 19, 2013 Siobhan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a wonderful book I cannot recommend it highly enough. Lagnado writes so beautifully she absolutely draws you in to the amazing world of Cairo in the years immediately following WW2. The story of her family's and the description of life in Cairo during this time is so alive and amazing, especially against the backdrop of what we know of Cairo today it is a fascinating read. I had no idea of the richness and diversity of Cairo in those years let alone of the tremendous Jewish communit ...more
Oct 30, 2011 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked Lagnado's previous memoir, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. I had known nothing about Egyptian Jews before reading that book, and her portrait of her dad was very touching. I was worried about whether I'd enjoy The Arrogant Years, as the reviews said it covered much of the same territory. Silly worry. The Arrogant Years touched me to the heart. Though the beginning is set in Egypt, the heart of the book is in the United States. Lagnado is my age, and we might've intersected at ...more
Charles Weinblatt
The Arrogant Years is the poignant and touching story of a Jewish family’s strength against a myriad of obstacles, from prominence in Egypt to obscurity in America, from wealthy to working class, from illness to heath, from Brooklyn to Vassar and beyond. 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. Th ...more
I confess, I'm not sure how the title fits in, except possibly as an indicator of the way the family lived in Cairo versus their lives in America. It doesn't really matter, ultimately, and I enjoyed meeting Lucette's family and learning about her life.

The community I was raised in was an Askenazic survivor community, so reading about the lives of Levantine Jews was a new experience. To be honest, I wish there had been more about those differences (perhaps that's another book?). Lagnado is half-E
Mar 07, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoyed, as I did, Lucette Lagnado’s The Man in the Sharkskin Suit, I suspect you’ll find The Arrogant Years a satisfying companion piece. In the new book, Ms. Lagnado tells the story of her mother, Edith, a complex, charming and troubled woman. Edith, a bibliophile, a woman whose call to teaching was as strong as that of a Rabbi to the Teba, and, foremost, a Francophile is caught like her husband, Leon, by circumstances beyond her control and her imagining.
Lagnado’s is a deep and respec
Tricia Mcginnis
There are major aspects of this memoir that I really enjoyed, particularly the first half of the book the describes her mother's life in Egypt. The author really penetrates the beginning of her mother's life, which for me was the most interesting part of the book. And I loved the author's reflections on her early childhood years after she moved to the US and the interactions with those in her synagogue. But unfortunately those insights don't really carry through to the reminder of her mother's l ...more
Sep 25, 2011 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucette Lagnado's previous book "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" was about her father, Leon, who walked the boulevards of Cairo proud of himself and what he had accomplished. All of that fell apart when the family had to flee Egypt to escape from a dictatorship. It was a tremendous tale so I was eager to read her newest memoir.
"The Arrogant Years" is a dual portrait of both Lucette and her mother, Edith. Lucette intertwines their two lives by writing of her mother's childhood in Old Cairo,
T.P. Williams
Sep 25, 2012 T.P. Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very worthy sequel to "The Man in The White Sharkskin Suit." Same amazing detail, same observational powers of the author in this one. I think I should have read them in their original order since I was somewhat unsure of why the author opened this book with a long section about Alice Cattaui Pasha, who is referenced in the other volume. I think this book thematically different from the other, in that it traces Alice's influence upon Edith (the author's mother) and Edith's influence on the aut ...more
Nov 06, 2015 Marr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucette Lagnado is a gifted and talented author, I felt deeply connected with the author and her family in this touching memoir. I ventured to buy this book even after I read some mediocre reviews about it, but I have to say that it is as breathtaking as her first memoir The man in the white sharkskin suit, the author Lucette Lagnado portrays the life of her mother in Sakakini district in Cairo and it takes us to how this timid and beautiful quiet lady got married to the boulevardier of Cairo no ...more
Lillie Mermelstein Epner
The Arrogant Years

This sequel to Lagnado's "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" gave us a picture of the immigrant experience. Not always pretty, but a lesson for all. It is hard work, and success doesn't come easily. Being tied to traditions from "the old country" make it even more of a challenge. Definitely worth the read.
Mary Kooistra
Aug 06, 2012 Mary Kooistra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author was born to a Syrian Jewish family in Cairo. As a young girl, her family was forced to leave Egypt under Nassar. She wrote The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit - which focused on her father, his life and her relationship with him. Although this book covers the same ground (life in Egypt - problems of immigration - coming of age)-it focuses on her mother and their relationship and does not repeat ground covered in the first book. Both are very well written and very informative about lif ...more
Judy Samuels
I had already read this author's first book, a memoir called "The Man in the Sharkskin Suit". I wanted to read this book to find out what happened to the author after arriving in America from Egypt. Unfortunately, about half of this book was just a repeat of information from the first book. The author's writing style improved since her first book, which had an excess of repeated, stock phrases to describe people or places. Much of the story revolves around the author's somewhat traumatic experie ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lucette Lagnado's brilliant memoir about her mother's brittle young life and her family's early experiences in America was riveting and unforgettable.

The tale begs the question: how could the Jews in Cairo, so held in side-by-side esteem, become terrorized? Their lives changed in an instant yet will not be forgotten.

Lucette Lagnado's pen is mightier than the sword of injustice that struck her mother's family.

You won't easily forget her life in the Alley of the Pretty One or her struggles in Amer
Melissa McAfee
Oct 14, 2011 Melissa McAfee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliantly-told story by a young Jewish Egyptian woman who has a gift for strategically and effectively dealing with adversity. By the time she turns 21, she has had to assimilate into two foreign cultures, deal with the deteriorating mental and physical health of her parents, as well as her own diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma. Having lived in Cairo, I was fascinated by her description of an Egyptian culture that was very different from the one that I knew when I lived there in the 199 ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Sharyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This sequel to the "Man in the white sharkskin suit" covers much the same territory, but from the point of view of her motherr, rather than her father. The descriptions of the life of the Jews in modern Egypt continue to fascinate. People forget how the Arabs threw out the Jews who had lived for centuries in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia,etc. and only focus on the Arabs who voluntarily left the British Mandate. Her descriptions of life in New York were also interesting. She grew up and became a successf ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Marilyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the follow-up memoir to The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lagnado, and it's a worthy sequel. There's the immigrant aspect to her (& her family's) story, then there are family relationship issues, and plenty of other twists and turns in this excellent writer's life... including the story of courage in combatting a near-fatal form of cancer. Awesome writing. Highly recommended.
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Lucette Lagnado, an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was born in Cairo, Egypt. She and her family left Egypt as refugees when she was a small child, an experience that helped shape and inform her recent memoir, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, published by Ecco/HarperCollins.
Lucette has received numerous awards for her work at The Wall Street Journal, where she has covered
More about Lucette Lagnado...

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