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My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Family's Past [Paperback]

Ariel Sabar
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Oct 2009
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 and 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

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Product details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; 1 edition (13 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565129334
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565129337
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 436,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"If Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise were only about his father's life, it would be a remarkable enough story about the psychic costs of immigration. But 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 chapters describing Yona's budding success as a linguist are thrilling."- Washington Post Book World

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching, family story 6 Sep 2008
The author, Ariel Sabah, is the son of a Kurdish Jewish immigrant to the United States, and this is the story of family and his heritage.

A Jewish community had existed in Iraq for many centuries, speaking a form of Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus). This Jewish community existed harmoniously with their Iraqi neighbours, as they had done for centuries, but remained largely illiterate and isolated from the outside world. We meet the author's grandparents and learn the story of their marriage and the tale of their lost daughter Rifka. In the face of rising racism and intolerance, the Jews being to leave Iraq, fleeing to the fledgling state of Israel. More than 120,000 Jews left Iraq, making it one of the largest, and least known, diasporas in history.

The Kurdish Jews are considered backwards, rural and superstitious by the recent European immigrants to Israel. Yona, the author's father, however, is determined to better himself and works hard to obtain a university education. It is here that his interest in his native tongue, Aramaic is sparked, and he begins his lifelong career, working to document the language. He becomes an internationally acclaimed professor at UCLA, but his son, the author, is embarassed as a teenager by what he sees as his immigrant ways.

As the author begins to raise his own family, he becomes interested in his own family's past and begins to research their history. The result is this fascinating and captivating tale. Father and son return to Iraq and Zahko and tensions between them are eased. But the author becomes obsessed with the tale of his father's lost sister and this obsession, which his father refuses to shares, begins to drive a wedge between the newly enhanced relationship between father and son.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars un-put-downable 31 Oct 2010
By avin
The detail is amazingly written. This is a history book and stories like this must be told. Loved it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Ronfeld
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My Fathers Paradise by Ariel Sabar 2008,328pg au.

I am always keen to read a new Jewish writer, and a gratefull for someone who has made an effort to write about the history and culture of a Jewish community that has dissapeared.
This is the biography of Yona Sabar written by his son. Yona was brought up in Kurdistan in the town.Zakho. At home he spoke Aramaic in the streets Kurdish and at school he learned Arabic, then arrived in Jerusalem when he was 12 years old. What is interesting is that he and his siblings were good students and finished school while most of his generation were dropouts. At university he was recognised as having something unique of mother tongue Aramaic and this resulted in him getting into Yale and he ends of living his life in America with an American wife and becomes a professor of Middle Eastern Languages.
His son only becomes interested in the family history when he has his own children and Ariel who by then is a reporter researches the whole family background.
It is also interesting that there are 35 million Kurds in the world and they don't have a national state. While the few million Palestinian who nobody is interested in have such a big noise because Jews are involved.
This book interests me as I learned 3 dead or dying languages. In South Africa , at school we had to learn the other official language Afrikaans, however in post Apartheid SA it has been relegated to one of many 9 tribal languages. Yiddish was the language my grandparents brought from Lithuania and that no longer has a new generation of speakers like when I was a kid. We had to learn a 3rd language at school and the only teachers available were Latin teachers and today very few learn classical dead languages.
It also interests me as my son's girlfriend is of Iraqi Kurdish extraction and is working on her Masters degree. So with time the 2nd or 3rd generations of Israelis have melted into the pot.
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