by Gabrielle Birkner

Out of Egypt

When fleeing means forgetting.

Joyce Zonana, author of Dream Homes: From Cairo to Katrina, an Exile’s Journey (Feminist Press, $15.95), was 18 months old when she emigrated with her Egyptian-Jewish parents from Cairo to Brooklyn. She remembers nothing of her country of birth, and her parents — all but forced into exile amid a rising tide of anti- Semitism in 1950s Egypt — seem to have willed themselves to forget what they’d left behind. “I have no memory,” Zonana’s mother says when asked about her life in Egypt, where an estimated 80,000 mostly Sephardic Jews lived in the middle of the 20th century. So it is with little help from her parents that Zonana embarks on a journey to piece together her family history, and to understand her own persistent feelings of dislocation.

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