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My Father's Paradise
Cover of My Father's Paradise
My Father's Paradise
A Son's Search for His Family's Past
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National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Autobiography: "A powerful story of the meaning of family and tradition inside a little-known culture" (San Francisco Chronicle).
In a remote corner of the world, forgotten for nearly three thousand years, lived an enclave of Kurdish Jews so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Mostly illiterate, they were self-made mystics, gifted storytellers, and humble peddlers who dwelt in harmony with their Muslim and Christian neighbors in the mountains of northern Iraq. To these descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, Yona Sabar was born.
Yona's son, Ariel, grew up in Los Angeles, where Yona had become an esteemed professor, dedicating his career to preserving his people's traditions. Ariel wanted nothing to do with his father's strange immigrant heritage—until he had a son of his own.
Ariel Sabar brings to life the ancient town of Zakho, discovering his family's place in the sweeping saga of Middle Eastern history. This powerful book is an improbable story of tolerance and hope set in what today is the very center of the world's attention.
"Graceful and resonant . . . A personal undertaking for a son who admits he never understood his unassuming, penny-pinching immigrant father." —The New York Times Book Review
"Sabar's family history turns out to be more than the chronicle of one man's efforts to retain something of his homeland in new surroundings. It's also a moving story about the near-death of an ancient language and the tiny flicker of life that remains in it." —The Washington Post Book World
"One of the best recent memoirs I've read." —The Huffington Post
National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Autobiography: "A powerful story of the meaning of family and tradition inside a little-known culture" (San Francisco Chronicle).
In a remote corner of the world, forgotten for nearly three thousand years, lived an enclave of Kurdish Jews so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Mostly illiterate, they were self-made mystics, gifted storytellers, and humble peddlers who dwelt in harmony with their Muslim and Christian neighbors in the mountains of northern Iraq. To these descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, Yona Sabar was born.
Yona's son, Ariel, grew up in Los Angeles, where Yona had become an esteemed professor, dedicating his career to preserving his people's traditions. Ariel wanted nothing to do with his father's strange immigrant heritage—until he had a son of his own.
Ariel Sabar brings to life the ancient town of Zakho, discovering his family's place in the sweeping saga of Middle Eastern history. This powerful book is an improbable story of tolerance and hope set in what today is the very center of the world's attention.
"Graceful and resonant . . . A personal undertaking for a son who admits he never understood his unassuming, penny-pinching immigrant father." —The New York Times Book Review
"Sabar's family history turns out to be more than the chronicle of one man's efforts to retain something of his homeland in new surroundings. It's also a moving story about the near-death of an ancient language and the tiny flicker of life that remains in it." —The Washington Post Book World
"One of the best recent memoirs I've read." —The Huffington Post
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Ariel Sabar is an award-winning former staff writer for the Baltimore Sun and the Providence (RI) Journal. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Monthly, Moment, Mother Jones magazine, and other publications. He lives with his wife and two children in Washington, D.C.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 23, 2008
    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.

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    Workman Publishing
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A Son's Search for His Family's Past
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