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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq » User review

True immigrant tale that documents a now lost community

  • Oct 22, 2008
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Though Ariel Sabar may regret that his relationship with his father was so contentious, readers have cause to rejoice because that fractured relationship led Sabar to pen this elegant tale of his father's life and language.

Yona Sabar, a Jewish Kurd, grew up speaking Aramaic, an ancient language now all but lost. He is also a celebrated linguist who has worked tirelessly to document his language before it dies. This book traces that effort, weaving a colorful tapestry of Jewish life in Iraq, Kurdish life in Israel, and immigrant life in America.

Though the portions of the book dealing with Ariel himself were less compelling, the tales of Yona's early life in Kurdistan are hypnotic- I had a difficult time putting this book down. The writing is excellent and the character of Yona breathes throughout the book. The book is never technical about linguistics; the story of Yona's work is presented as I believe he experienced it- a treasure hunt generating excitement with each new clue.

Highly recommended!

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review by . September 29, 2008
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book's description, but knowing I'm not a fan of "sweeping multi-generational sagas" on the fiction side, I approached "My Father's Paradise" with a little nervousness. But Ariel Sabar won me over very quickly with what turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing, educational, and ultimately moving story.    The narrative covers a lot of literal ground, from Kurdistan to Israel to New Haven to Los Angeles and back, but also thematic …
review by . August 25, 2008
Sabar, Ariel. "My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for his Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq", Algonquin, 2008.    Reconciling Past and Present    Amos Lassen    We really do not have a great deal of literature about Jewish life in Iraq so "My Father's Paradise" is extremely welcome. Ariel Sabar, a noted journalist gives us a look at past and present in the Arab country and it is all fascinating.  Kurdish Iraq can be described as "a …
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C Quinn ()
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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 theBaltimore Sunand 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)
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ISBN-10: 1565124901
ISBN-13: 978-1565124905
Author: Ariel Sabar
Publisher: Algonquin Books

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