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The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World

The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World

Author(s): Lucette Lagnado

Location(s): Brooklyn, Cairo, Paris

Genre(s): Autobiography/Memoirs

Era(s): 1950s, 1960s

In vivid and graceful prose, Lucette Lagnado re-creates the majesty and cosmopolitan glamour of Cairo in the years between World War II and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rise to power. Her father, Leon, was a boulevardier who conducted business on the elegant terrace of Shepheard’s Hotel, and later, in the cozy, dark bar of the Nile Hilton, dressed in his signature white sharkskin suit. But with the fall of King Farouk and Nasser’s nationalization of Egyptian industry, Leon and his family lose everything. As streets are renamed, neighborhoods of their fellow Jews disbanded, and the city purged of all foreign influence, the Lagnados, too, must make their escape. With all of their belongings packed into twenty-six suitcases, their jewels and gold coins hidden in sealed tins of marmalade, Leon and his family depart for any land that will take them. The poverty and hardships they encounter in their flight from Cairo to Paris to New York are strikingly juxta-posed against the beauty and comforts of the lives they left behind.

An inversion of the American dream set against the stunning portraits of three world cities, Lucette Lagnado’s memoir offers a grand and sweeping story of faith, tradition, tragedy, and triumph.

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