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Out From the Shadow of Men
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Years ago, Laila El-Sissi , a shy, impressionable and easily influenced 15-year-old, and her more rebellious 16-year-old sister, Rawyia, learned that they were betrothed to men they had never met. They refused to live in the prison constructed by their Egyptian society, hoping for a better life than that of their mothers and aunts. Running from their controlling father, an abusive brother, and arranged marriages to men twice their age, Laila and Rawyia risked their reputation and safety and plotted their escape. “Out from The Shadows of Men,” a memoir, tells the story of two sisters who found the courage to risk their lives and stand up to forces seemingly as large, strong and ancient as the pyramids so they could choose their futures. This is the account of two brave, intelligent girls not content to have their lives ruled by others—not even their father. It is a testament to the power of two courageous sisters, who stood and supported each other in order to create a better life and turn their dream into a reality.
Episode Segments:
Don't Box Me In: Laila El-Sissi
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Guest(s) Appearing on this Episode
Lalia El-Sissi
Laila El-Sissi was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to an upper class family. She is one of six children. Her father was an architect who chose to educate his older daughters at a prestigious French convent school, although he was an observant Muslim. As a teenager, El-Sissi hoped to pursue a career in journalism. However, she and her older sister, Rawiya, were promised to older men in arranged marriages at a young age. Through perseverance and fortitude, they eventually divorced their husbands and escaped the abusers within their family, fleeing the country of their birth.

El-Sissi moved first to Europe, then Canada, and finally settled in the United States with her second husband. She has two sons and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she works for a semiconductor company.

Several years ago, shortly after her sister Rawiya’s death, El-Sissi found her early interest in writing reawakened and began working on her memoir. This is her first book. It won Millennium Magazine’s 2010 writing contest, and Laila won a full stipend at Arts Residency Cairo. She has done numerous readings at the Golden Gate Breakfast Club and was a panelist at “Women in the Middle East and the Current Changes in Egypt,” at the Common Wealth Middle East Forum in San Francisco in 2011. The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco is eager to have her speak at their series once the book is published.

Laila's Website