"Remarkable ... A moving story ... Thrilling" – Washington Post
"Novel-like" – The Los Angeles Times
A "Best Nonfiction Book of 2008" - Christian Science Monitor
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Rodda Book Award
Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Pick, & Elle Readers' Prize Selection
An ancient land. A lost language. And a wayward son who never knew what he and his father shared. Until they embarked on an epic journey into their family's extraordinary past.
Ariel Sabar's father, Yona, was born to an illiterate mother in a mud hut in the remote Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Protected by towering mountains, the Jews of Zakho dwelt peacefully among Muslims and Christians for hundreds of years. Rugged lumberjacks and humble peddlers, self-made mystics and gifted storytellers, the members of this Lost Tribe of Israel were so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus. But in the late 1940s, the outside world would come crashing in. Yona Sabar would be the last boy bar mitzvahed in Zakho.
Young Yona and his family joined the mass exodus of 120,000 Jews from Iraq — one of the largest peacetime airlifts in history. In Israel, Kurdish Jews struggled against poverty and bigotry, watching helplessly as their ancient culture and language faded into oblivion. Yona worked his way through night high school in Jerusalem and then, against great odds, was admitted to Yale University, where he devoted himself to the rescue of his people's vanishing traditions. Now an esteemed professor at UCLA, Yona is one of the world's most sought-after experts on Aramaic.
Growing up in 1980s Los Angeles, Ariel wanted nothing to do with his father's strange immigrant heritage. Until he had a son of his own.
In this award-winning debut book, Ariel travels with Yona to war-torn Iraq in a quest for roots and reconciliation. A sweeping saga of Middle-Eastern history, My Father's Paradise is also an intimate story of tolerance and hope in an Iraq very different from the one in the headlines today.
MY FATHER'S PARADISE is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book formats, and has been translated into Hebrew (Schocken, Tel Aviv), Dutch (Mistral, Amsterdam), and Turkish (Sonsuz Kitap, Istanbul). Kurdish and Chinese editions are forthcoming.
Boys on the road above Zakho, Iraq, 1957
Freya Stark Collection, Middle East Centre Archive, St. Antony’s College, Oxford