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Every Diaspora Echoes the Past

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"Every Diaspora Echoes the Past and Foreshadows the Future" by Author and Agent Jean Naggar
by Publishers Weekly Editor on February 15, 2012

These past months, reading with fascination of the turbulent events in Egypt, the fall of Mubarak, and the groundswell of energy and hope that galvanized the young inTahrir Square, I was cast back once again into the lost world of my childhood, a world I had summoned from the caverns of memory in order to write Sipping From the Nile, My Exodus from Egypt - a deeply personal memoir - not quite realizing that every diaspora echoes the past and foreshadows the future.
When I was nineteen years old, I was blown into a larger life and wider world by fierce winds of change propelled by the Suez crisis of 1956: a mere footnote to history, but the shock waves it created uprooted my family, and scattered hundreds of close extended families across the world, leaving them with poignant memories, and a history that no-one outside of their own communities understood
My personal story now seems like a tiny grain of sand trapped in an undertow of post-colonial national fervor. In 1956, religious freedom and the fertile brew of diversity encouraged by the Ottoman occupation of Egypt imploded and disappeared in one fell swoop. Immediate expulsion of civic-minded, financially astute, cultured British, French and Jewish communities following Suez, threatened the socio-economic infrastructure of the country and planted seeds for escalating economic woes, foreshadowing a new revolution decades later, fueling the energy and anger that filled Tahrir Square in 2011.
I wrote my memoir in moments stolen from a busy work life, because I felt compelled to try to bring to life for my grandchildren the rich, complicated past, the vibrant personalities, the extraordinary community and vanished context of my childhood. It was a world they would never know, could not imagine, and might not think of asking about until it was too late for me to answer. I opened doors locked shut for years, and travelled uncharted paths to retrieve what I still held in my heart. I had no thought then that my personal story might hold seeds that would bloom into the Arab Spring of 2011 in Egypt.
I have since come to understand what a pivotal moment I lived, and how necessary it was to record the world of my childhood, lost forever to that tiny footnote in history. I hope I have saved an unusual compelling past from obliteration in offering its messages to the future.

--Jean Naggar
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