Sunday, July 20, 2008
Sunday Salon, My Father's Paradise, by Ariel Sabar
My Father's Paradise, by Ariel Sabar
My Father’s Paradise is a moving masterpiece!! Yona Sabar lives in the past although he is a successful professor at UCLA, speaker and writer in the United States. He was born a Jew in Kurdish Iraq, in a town called Zakho. The book is written by Ariel Sabar, his son. The author is faced with a difficult task of presenting an unbiased look at his father’s life without interjecting the inherent jealousy of a son who has had to share his life with his father’s monomaniacal obsession with the study and preservation of the Aramaic language. Ariel Sabar should be commended for his literary success as he has achieved this colossal challenge.
His book is a chronological timeline of his father’s life. It starts before he was born with several generations before, as Ariel provides some critical history and background. A slow start reading at the beginning, will pick up. Don’t give up it is worth it. Ariel offers a necessary piece of Middle Eastern history that provides information important to current global awareness.
The story follows Yona’s youth growing up as a Kurdish Jew in Zakho, his immigration to Israel at the age of twelve, moving to America to study at Yale, and his success as a professor, father and grandfather. Ariel grows up in the shadow of a father who is venerated by his colleagues, peers and students as the master of the Aramaic language. He is the typical teenager. He is embarrassed by his father’s frumpiness, frugality, out-dated thinking and other oddities. Neither understands each other and Ariel often treats his father with disrespect. Ironically, Yona appreciates his son more than Ariel understands his father. Yona truly believes that humanity over time and throughout the world is very similar; unchanging and common. Rebellion of teenagers in America will occur as it did when Yona was a child in Zakho.
Yona looks at his town of Zakho as a child fantasizes in grandiose illusions. It is his paradise. It isn’t until Ariel has graduated from a New England college, is working as a journalist, and has a family of his own, that he shows an interest in his father’s past. It is at this time of his life that Ariel begins a journey of self-discovery. On a visit that Ariel and Yona make to Zakho, Ariel sees his father come alive and sees why his father sees Zakho as paradise. Traveling to Zakho is both physical and emotional as Ariel and Yona begin another journey of father and son understanding.
My Father’s Paradise is essential reading to gain an understanding of the Kurdish Jews, Israel, Iraq and Middle East in history. A superb read that is multigenerational and full of wisdom especially current today. A memoir that will make you respect the world and its people. I loved this book!