The Strangers We Became by Cynthia Kaplan Shamash
Gripping yet light-hearted, this memoir tells the story of Cynthia Kaplan Shamash’s journey from childhood in Iraq to adulthood as a practicing dentist in New York.
Shamash infuses her tale with emotion but never loses the facts of her experience in the whirlwind of her flight to Turkey, reunion with family in Israel, isolation in the Netherlands, education in England, and finally the possibility of a new beginning in New York. The anecdotes from Shamash’s Iraqi childhood are unique and touching, but the good cannot outweigh the discrimination and hostility toward Jews that eventually touch her family through her father’s forced resignation from his job with a major accounting firm and the family’s struggle to leave Iraq that at one point lands them all in jail. Finally free, outside Iraq, such nostalgia is insufficient to sustain them as a family, and—as the title suggests—they become strangers in a new land. Shamash struggles with isolation and confusion in school; her parents contend with caseworkers who help yet judge their differences and language barriers that block possibilities for advancement in a culturally liberated Western society.