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My Father’s Paradise

 

My Father’s Paradise, Ariel Sabar

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

For almost 3,000 years, a tiny Jewish enclave existed in what is now the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.  The Jews and their Christian and Muslim neighbors spoke the ancient tongue of Aramaic, which had once been the lingua franca of the Middle East and was spoken by Jesus.  Sabar’s father, Yona, was born in that enclave but immigrated to the U.S. when the creation of the state of Israel created hostile conditions for Iraqi Jews in the 1950s.  Yona, however, maintained strong emotional ties to his native language and culture even as he ascended to a prominent academic position at UCLA.  Meanwhile, Sabar showed virtually no interest in his father’s background; however, after the birth of his own son, he felt a desire to reconnect with his father and their shared cultural heritage.  Their joint visit to their ancestral town of Zakho rekindles memories of the ancient community while strengthening the ties between father and son.  An involving memoir that works as both a family saga and an examination of a lost but treasured community.

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