Actor Omar Sharif Jr. has detailed his most tumultuous life in his new memoir, A Tale of Two Omars: A Memoir of Family, Revolution, and Coming Out During the Arab Spring. In short, he doesn’t hold back on the trauma.
Sharif, 37, enjoys a successful career as a model and actor, having appeared in a memorable sketch at the 2011 Academy Awards, and in print ads for Calvin Klein and Coca-Cola.
He came out as gay in a 2012 essay in The Advocate, in which he detailed the treatment of LGBTQ people in Egypt and pleaded for more acceptance of queer people within the Arab world.
Now Sharif discusses the fallout of his coming out, life with his famous grandfather, and the personal struggles that have impacted his career.
USA Today reports some of the biggest revelations, including that the government of Egypt attempted to strip him of citizenship in 2012 following his coming out, not only because he was gay, but because he also revealed his Jewish heritage. He moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter.
Sharif further claims his mother didn’t react well to his coming out, going so far as to blame his being gay as the cause of her breast cancer. “Don’t tell your father! Don’t tell anyone,” she screamed. “God help if your father or the rest of Egypt finds out. You’ve always caused me stress. That’s probably how I got this.”
Sharif also mentions that his late grandfather–the star of Lawrence of Arabia and Funny Girl–knew he was gay, and accepted him. The elder Sharif did however suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and became abusive in his later years.
One night, over dinner with strangers, the ailing Sharif berated his grandson, “You want to be something, but you are never going to be anything like I was because you will always be a failure!”
While working for a wealthy sheikh in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Sharif also reveals that he was raped by his boss. Because of the same-sex nature of the attack, he felt unable to report it to Egyptian authorities.
“I don’t remember being able to speak. I couldn’t say no, so I shouldn’t have been able to say yes, either,” he writes. “I felt trapped in a body I couldn’t control.”
The book further details Sharif’s struggles with suicidal thoughts following his sexual assault, his tender relationship with his grandfather, and his thoughts on the future of queer rights activism.
A Tale of Two Omars: A Memoir of Family, Revolution, and Coming Out During the Arab Spring is on sale now.