Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sipping From The Nile: Book Review





Sipping From The Nile
By Jean Naggar


 I was wondering, why would I be interested in a wealthy Egyptian Jewish family? of course, I am Jewish but why else?  There isn't any thing out of the ordinary. There wasn't any abuse, or financial crisis, there isn't any psychological, drug, or alcohol, or rape, incest.

  So, why write this book? Or was it a  legacy to leave for her children. They would be the only ones that would connect to her memoir.  But, once she leaves childhood and grows into the teenage years, and adulthood, you become immersed, and flooded(into the Nile) with emotions especially toward the end.

  Jean Naggar, was raised in a very prestigious, privileged  family, with great wealth. Did you know that the Jewish Egyptian's were the wealthiest people in the middle east( interesting)?
 She comes from a long line of Sephardic Jews from Italy, on one side, and the Middle East on the other. She writes extensively, about both sides of the family. It becomes a bit tedious.

Jean is born to privilege she travels to different places, and goes abroad to Manchester England to boarding school.  She talks about her grand home, and the maids, and the help that take care of the home.  I enjoyed reading about her Aunt Helen and her grandmother's ( grand matriarchs of the family) family.

I wondered, this story can't just be tedious about growing up, and talking only about herself, and her family, and the riches that surround her. But, it does go with the story because, her family is tightly knit. I would have liked her to write about her friends, and experiences, Egyptian life, less about herself and her family.

I think as a young girl, I was thinking she in a fairy land. You remember when you were growing up you idolized your parents, and your parents could do no wrong. Everything they said, was law and you believed them. She was wearing rose colored glasses.  This is how I took her memoir as a child until she grew up, and discovered the other world.

Then in 1956, the Suez Canal Crisis took shape. The British, and the French colonized Egypt for years. In 1956,Britain, France, and Israel tried to take control of the Suez Canal. Because Egypt would not allow Israel to use the canal.  There was bombing by Israel, Britain, and France.

  When this happened, Egypt made conditions terrible for the Jewish Egyptians. They had no other alternative but to leave.  After, Israel became a independent state, 1948.   The Jews of Egypt were treated differently. The German's influenced the Middle east to treat Middle Eastern Jews with hatred, and not to tolerate them. This started anti-Semitism in the middle east.

During the fall out of 1956, there was rioting in the streets. Jews had no access to their money, and their finances, to their homes, trying to get a visa was impossible. Some of Jean's family did stay on, but did eventually leave.

I enjoyed reading her experience when she came to the United States. How did she ever fit in with the rest of American society? How did she fit into the Ashkenazi Jews vs. Sephardic Jews? That is interesting.

 Because, when I moved to Myrtle Beach there is a Ashkenazi community and Sephardic community. I always thought if I was Jewish you should be able to fit in anywhere. Not true, when I went to a Israeli restaurant, or Chabad which are mainly Israeli's(Sephardic) they treated you differently. I am sure it was the same way for Jean.

I enjoyed reading about her first time in her American kitchen, cooking a traditional Egyptian cookie. I had to look it up online, be hold it was on youtube. I wish we had acess to multiethnic foods here as much as in New York City( my home), but it is not to be. It would have been nice to get the traditional cookie for our book club on Monday.

Jean, writes beautiful prose about her adult life in the United States, and her adult years as a grandmother. As you read this, it stirs up your own memories. Thinking about your legacy to your children and grandchildren.

Once you get past the family line, and she writes about the Suez it is all uphill. Many times I wanted to toss it aside, and thought I can't do that. I am the one that recommended Sipping From the Nile. I am making everyone else read this, it is only fair I read it.  I am glad I did not abandon it and kept reading. My book test is usually 50-100 pages. It took a bit longer, but worth the read.

I was not expecting to change my view of the book. I imagined it was going to be a terrible book review. But, thank g-d the experience turned around for me.   If you are interested in cultures, and history, you will enjoy reading.

Jean will be calling into our book club this coming week. I am looking forward to chatting with her. I would like to thank Wiley, in the first place for getting in touch with me. He asked me to review this marvelous book. then arranging for the books to be shipped for our book club, and arranging a chat with Jean.  Tune in Monday, when I post my blog live about the book discussion.

For added pleasure, I made the book interactive. Which may be the way of digital books. I made links to you tube, for the Suez Canal Crisis, and when she was describing how she made a traditional Egyptian Cookie. This enhanced the book. Some day that may be the wave of the future and selling

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