Book Review

The man in the white sharkskin suit by Lucette Lagnado

Unlike my previous posts, this one is a political book review. The book is about a Jewish family’s exodus from old Cairo to the new world. It is actually a memoir full of stories about family, tragedy, and triumph. This is a book I recommend particularly if you are passionate about politics. Still, you would enjoy it if you would like to read a memoir (something I personally enjoy very much).

The author’s father is in reality Egyptian. The book takes place in Egypt at the time King Farouk fell and Nasser dictatorship rose. Lucette’s father – in this political turmoil – lost luxury (he was a businessman) and plunged into hardship.

He and his family flew away seeking a new land, any land.

The first half of the book sounds like a roller coaster inthe rise and fall of both the country and Lucette’s father. The second half delves into the exile in part in Paris and then in New York. The story takesplace during and after World War II.

It is no surprise that the author won – having published this book – the prize of Sami Rohr for Jewish literature.

The book takes you on a journey of themes ranging between philosophy and politics. The author speaks about superstition without calling it as she was describing how people seek the supernatural in distress.  She also speaks cynically about the American dream in general and details in a very ruthless way the American healthcare system. In her memoir, Lagnado was quite harsh on the feminist movement too.

I decided to read the book as I was too curious to know howthe family in the story was the victim of the wake of the Suez Canal crisis. At that time, anti-Semitism was growing in Egypt and Nasser was nationalizing companies – a situation that pushed Jewish families to leave Egypt in droves.

This memoir is truly crushing – as described by the New York Times Book Review. I look forward to seeing it in a movie theatre… visualizingthe father crying and yelling “ragaouna masr” (take us back to Egypt) as his boat was edging out of the harbor.

As much as it is a 1960’s memoir, this book remains so relevant in a world infected by discrimination, war, refugees, and poverty. This man left, packing his life in 26 suitcases. In 2018, every minute, 24 people around the world seek a safer land. There are (65) millions of refugees who are forced to flee their homes oftentimes with no suitcase. Only a head full of fear…

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