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

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Growing Up Jewish in Alexandria

THE STORY OF A SEPHARDIC FAMILY'S EXODUS FROM EGYPT

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

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UNTAMED

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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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