His Father’s Paradise


Before asking my readers for advice on books I should read, I visited Jew Wishes, a Jewish-themed blog kept by a friend of mine. She has a page entitled Books read in 2009 which contains thorough book reviews. Her review of My Father’s Paradise caugt my attention.

The book seemed to be exactly what I was looking for: Jewish history mingled with personal stories, family relationships, Middle-East history, the making of Israel and languages (the family spoke Aramaic).

In addition, the raving reviews on Amazon.com seemed promising. So I decided to order the book and started it last week.

When he became a father himself, Ariel Sabar suddenly became interested in his father’s past; a past he had tried to ignore when growing up in L.A. He decided to stop working as a journalist and embarked on a journey through memories, photos and interviews as well as trips to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ariel Sabar’s book follows a chronological line: it starts with his grandparents Rahanim and Miriam, then focuses on his father Yona (the last boy to be bar-mitzvaed in Zakho – their hometown) and ends a few years ago. When Ariel Sabar was not sure what had happened, he relied on what he understood of what people had told him to fill the gaps.

This book is a tour de force in that it skilfully combines factual information on the Jewish community of Kurdistan and its fate with Yona’s individual destiny. It is certainly the best book I have read in the past few months and one I highly recommend.

For another great review of My Father’s Paradise click here.