From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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. (Sept. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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. --Jay Freeman