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

Growing Up Jewish in Alexandria


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.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500446352

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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