My Fathers Paradise: A Sons Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq

by Ariel Sabar

Library Journal : Sabar, a former political reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, grew up as a typical California kid. His father, a Kurdish Jew, is the foremost scholar of Aramaic, the language of Jesus, which most people think is extinct. The disconnect between his present and his past launched Sabar on a quest to understand the history of Kurdish Jews, who spent 2000 years in northern Iraq until the 1950s, when most of them emigrated to Israel. Interweaving the community's history with his family's stories, Sabar tells of his visits to Iraq and Israel to trace his father's journey from an isolated Kurdish village to UCLA, where at one point he provides Aramaic dialog for The X-Files. Although Sabar ultimately fails to discover the fate of his father's sister, who was kidnapped from their village in the 1930s, he does begin to understand his responsibility to his ancestry. Throughout the narrative, he focuses on identity and community and this central question: "When we carry our languages and stories from one generation to the next, from one country to another, what exactly do we gain?" Written with a reporter's flair for people and places, this is recommended for public libraries.—Diane Harvey, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park

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Publishers Weekly : Starred Review. For his first 31 years Sabar considered his father, Yona, an embarrassing anachronism. Ours was a clash of civilizations, writ small. He was ancient Kurdistan. I was 1980s L.A. Yona was a UCLA professor whose passion was his native language, Aramaic. Ariel was an aspiring rock-and-roll drummer. The birth of Sabar's own son in 2002 was a turning point, prompting Sabar to try to understand his father on his own terms. Readers can only be grateful to him for unearthing the history of a family, a people and a very different image of Iraq. Sabar vividly depicts daily life in the remote village of Zahko, where Muslims, Jews and Christians banded together to ensure prosperity and survival, and in Israel (after the Jews' 1951 expulsion from Iraq), where Kurdish Jews were stereotyped as backward and simple. Sabar's career as an investigative reporter at the Baltimore Sun and elsewhere serves him well, particularly in his attempt to track down his father's oldest sister, who was kidnapped as an infant. Sabar offers something rare and precious—a tale of hope and continuity that can be passed on for generations. Photos. (Sept. 16)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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