From his childhood in Egypt to his immigration to the United States, Dr. Sabri g. Bebawi has assembled scores of incidents, “scenes” instead of “chapters” as he calls them, which weave a tapestry of his life with candor, honesty and intelligence in his book, A Dream Is Just That: An Interminable Journey from Egypt to America.
A foreign upbringing by American standards, Dr. Bebawi began his book by telling tales of his childhood in an Egyptian oasis called Fayoum. As virtually any childhood parallels in human emotion those of children around the world, his intellectual curiosity and passion for truth filled his world around the Egyptian dust and dirt, religious laws and culture, giving him a rather unique upbringing. Being from a family of wealth, he was afforded comforts and education; however all was not at peace within his youth. Instances of naivety while being sexually abused, and witnessing indescribably bizarre events, etched a permanent chasm of ideological awareness of life in his developing mind. From the frailty of being a victim of various childhood diseases, he relied on his one physical characteristic of strength, his mind, for survival. This prowess has manifested itself in his literary achievements in journalism, authorship, and achieving his PhD in English as a part of his higher education.
One episode I most certainly found fascinating was his account of being hypnotized. When asked permission by his psychologist, he thought it would not be possible due to his strong and active mind. After a few seconds of a relaxing thought, he looked down at his watch and noticed an hour had passed in which he had absolutely no recollection of what occurred. He called this “The death of an hour in my own life.”
After his autobiographical account of his upbringing and family, the book shifts to America, the “Land of Freedom,” so he thought. What are described are incidents of hardship, legal abuse, financial slavery and class struggles in society; which Dr. Bebawi cleverly juxtaposes against his Egyptian culture. He concludes there are more similarities than differences, and human nature is eerily constant within the various geographical and political environmental regions of the world. I must admit I found a tidbit of arrogance in his written voice, as he describes legal battles and confrontational issues with established American corporate behemoths over policies of customer apathy. Dr. Bebawi found a call to action as he became the self-appointed spokesperson for the less articulate and educated masses; as he single-handedly attempted to change American society. His battle was brought all the way to The White House where he received a customary reply thanking him for his concern; but leaving the situation unchanged. Hence A Dream is Just That…..a dream.
This book is surprisingly compelling and difficult to put down. It reads rather swiftly due to the layout of short “scenes” intermixed with very interesting photographs and exhibits. The single most quality which resonates throughout his writing is truth. This, I imagine, comes from his years of journalistic work, but is obviously rooted in his morality and his own core values. With all of the turmoil going on in the world, especially from his homeland of Egypt, I found this to be extraordinarily timely and pertinent. Americans need to see ourselves not from within our culture, but from foreign observations, to realize some of the truths and rights we hold to be self-evident are a part of the American Dream, and A Dream Is Just That.