She has always been restless:
Discomfort is a home of sorts for me. I know it, and find myself restless and searching for it the moment I feel myself slipping into any state of ease. The truth is that I feel most acutely when I have pushed into some state of discomfort.
Her father, a large outgoing man, was a pharmacist for 50 years, and her mother is a reserved, lovely woman. Her parents grew up in the Middle East. As Christians they did not fit into the Egypt of Gamal Nassar and became outsiders.
The family went from Cairo to Vancouver to Beirut to Toronto where Henein grew up. As with many children she gains interest in her family backgrounds as an adult.
Growing up family life for the Henein’s is everything, even stifling at times. Years go by before the tight bonds weaken and Amerikani ways creep into their lives.
Henein has strong women at the heart of her life - her Teta (grandmother) Nour and her mother, Evelyn.
Her Teta was at the “centre” of the family. Henein was extremely close to her Teta. Her maternal grandparents lived no more than a block away. The two of them were together every day.
Evelyn, refused to have Henein limited to a traditional life:
My mother’s only aspiration for me was that I be educated and financially independent.
Henein’s love of shopping and of negotiating come from her Teta who was a master negotiator at stores as well as in flea markets.
Her mother loves her children deeply but expected them to have separate lives from parents and other adults. Henein was more interested in adults.
Nour, Evelyn and Marie all have a fierce intensity. Henein speaks of Middle Eastern mothers being convinced they are never wrong.
Her brother, Peter, born 6 years after Henein, is less intense. Henein, as a child, organizes and directs his childhood life.
Illustrating her character:
The only arguments my mother and I had about school were those where she asked me to stop studying. She would fight with me to take a break or come eat or join a family gathering. I missed many such events - even my grandmother’s mandatory weekend family dinners - because I insisted on studying just a little bit longer. And the thing is that I never, not once, enjoyed it.
There are mentions, but no discussions, of friends as a child or a teenager.
Henein loves her Uncle Sami who leaves for New York City when he is 18. With artistic flair he lives flamboyantly and exuberantly as he drifts from endeavour to endeavour. Every visit to Uncle Sami is an adventure. He lived with “glitter and excess and a good dose of fantasy”.
Entering law school, as I did after 2 years of university, Henein is Sami’s support during her first year of law. He has returned to Toronto to die. He has AIDS. She recounts his hard death. It was a desperate time in the 1980’s for those infected with HIV. There was no treatment. I thought of my representation, starting in 1991, of hemophiliacs and blood transfused who were infected with HIV. Eight of my first eleven clients had died by 1996.
She was with Sami to the end when other family members could not bear his suffering. She planned his funeral and delivered the eulogy. The middle name of her second son is Sami so she could say his name again.
In the book Henein sets out the best and worst of law school.
The best involves critical thinking:
Navigating a case effectively requires an ability to critically think, set aside your ego, and most importantly, challenge your own and your client’s assumptions.
In her next sentence she discusses the worst:
While law school does some of this, it completely fails to teach students about the actual practice of law. Very little time is spent on how to interact with clients, tackle ethical issues, or master the art of negotiation and advocacy.
That was my experience in law school 50 years ago. It was her experience over 30 years ago. The experience has not changed for the Canadian law students of 2023.
Henein is an accomplished storyteller as I would expect from a trial lawyer.
I will explore aspects of her three plus decades in the law in my next post, a letter to Marie.