Lucienne Carasso

Lucienne Carasso grew up in Alexandria, Egypt in the nineteen-fifties. After living in Italy and immigrating to the United States, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year at Hunter College of the City of New York and received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship which she used to earn a Master's degree and a PhD in French Literature from Yale University. She is the author of "The Merveilleux in Chretien de Troyes' Romances" which was published by Librairie Droz in Geneva. After teaching on the  ...See more >

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"Well-drawn portraits of a childhood from a lost world, the sorrows of exile and the resilience of a people."

Kirkus Reviews


Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1500446352
Page count: 260pp

Carasso, in her memoir, describes her extended Jewish family’s life in Alexandria, Egypt, and how they were compelled to leave.

In 1956, when Carasso was 10 years old, her world shattered when Nasser’s government interned her father. “Don’t worry,” her father said. “We are Egyptians.” Not to the new regime. Carasso’s father was released, but his business was taken away, and there was eventually a family diaspora. Delayed by Carasso’s grandmother’s refusal to leave Alexandria, her family didn’t emigrate until 1961. Her father never saw the same success in business again, but Carasso went on to earn a Ph.D. in French literature at Yale University. Her goal, she writes, is to tell her family’s story in the context of the Jews’ long history of exile and resettlement. She also aims to give readers a better understanding of Egyptian politics and history from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th. Carasso affectingly describes her comfortable, carefree, family-centered childhood in cosmopolitan, multilingual Alexandria, full of fencing lessons, movies, books, beach trips and family dinner at Nonna’s, and how wrenching it was to lose all that. She paints vivid portraits of her parents, grandparents, cousins, servants and friends. Her hardworking shipping-agent father, for example, beguiles his young daughter by discussing the fine points of cargo vessels: “[H]e would draw pictures of ships for me, detailing winches as well as describing how the newly introduced McGregor hatchcovers worked.” All of this comes to life, although Carasso’s perspective is necessarily limited by her youth and fading memories. Readers see more of Alexandria’s sweet shops and movie theaters than its more sophisticated offerings, and Carasso often must guess or make assumptions to fill the gaps in her story. At times, Carasso is overly casual—“Egypt basically went to sleep for several centuries after the Turkish conquest”—but she does provide footnotes, a bibliography and family tree.

Well-drawn portraits of a childhood from a lost world, the sorrows of exile and the resilience of a people.