PRAISE FOR MY FATHER'S PARADISE
"Graceful and resonant . . . A personal undertaking for a son who admits he never understood his unassuming, penny-pinching immigrant father, a man who spent three decades obsessively cataloging the words of his moribund mother tongue. Sabar once looked at his father with shame, scornful of the alien who still bore scars on his back from childhood bloodlettings. This book, he writes, is a chance to make amends."
– New York Times Sunday Book Review
"If Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise were only about his father's life, it would be a remarkable enough story about the psychic costs of immigration. But Sabar's family history turns out to be more than the chronicle of one man's efforts to retain something of his homeland in new surroundings. It's also a moving story about the near-death of an ancient language and the tiny flicker of life that remains in it. . . . The chapters describing Yona's budding success as a linguist are thrilling."
– Washington Post Book World
"A wonderful, enlightening journey, a voyage with the power to move readers deeply even as it stretches across differences of culture, family, and memory."
– Christian Science Monitor
“A powerful story of the meaning of family and tradition inside a little-known culture.”– San Francisco Chronicle
"A biography, a memoir, a meticulously reconstructed history of a largely vanished people and place, and a meditation on one of the world's oldest languages. Transcending mere reportage, it acquires a novel-like warp and weft."
– Los Angeles Times
A "remarkable new memoir . . . Sabar's Paradise is especially noteworthy because of its multilayered narrative. While it begins with a young man's personal and familial crisis, it ends up exploring universal themes about the linguistic origins of culture and about the vital importance of tradition to the health of any community."
– Philadelphia Inquirer
"Sabar offers something rare and precious – a tale of hope and continuity that can be passed on for generations. . . . Readers can only be grateful to him for unearthing the history of a family, a people and a very different image of Iraq."
– Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Taking the memoir to a new dimension. . .A book that operates on several levels: as the story of the relationship between father and son, as testimony to a man with a mission, and as a portrait of a nearly forgotten people."
– National Book Critics Circle Board Member Ellen Heltzel, in public remarks at the New York City ceremony where My Father's Paradise was honored with the 2008 NBCC Award for Autobiography.
"Be forewarned: you will lose sleep over this book. . . . [Sabar] mesmerizes with the very first sentences. . . . In the tradition of the famed storytellers of Zakho, Sabar narrates a saga so touching, so amazing, so miraculous that the reader will feel awe for the resiliency of the human spirit. . . . Unlike many memoirs flooding the book market these days, My Father’s Paradise is both unique and universal.”
– Roanoke (Va.) Times
"With the novelistic skill of a Levantine storyteller . . . Sabar explores the conflicting demands of love and tradition, the burdens and blessings of an ancient culture encountering the 21st century. A well-researched text falling somewhere between journalism and memoir, sustained by Mesopotamian imagination.”
– Kirkus Reviews
"A book for readers who hanker after ancient mysteries blended with modern-day suspense: You won't get much closer to a real Indiana Jones tale."
– Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel
"[Sabar's] a lovely writer, slyly adapting his voice as needed to write about the different generations, shifting from the mode of a storyteller to the mode of a journalist. One of the best recent memoirs I've read."
– Huffington Post
"Taut and extravagant. A sweeping saga with the cadence of a Biblical tale." – Daniel Asa Rose, O. Henry Prize winner and author of Hiding Places: A Father and his Sons Retrace Their Family’s Escape from the Holocaust
"An enchanting combination of history, family and discovery – Ariel Sabar’s chronicle of his journey is flat-out wonderful."
– Rabbi David Wolpe, author of Why Faith Matters
A "thoughtful, touching book. . . . I could not read quickly enough as the Sabars worked to resurrect the past."
– Elle magazine, Readers' Prize selection, October 2008
"Excellent. . . . The story is told with novelistic attention to narrative and detail, but its heart is Ariel’s heart, that of a son searching with love for the meaning of his relationship with his father."
– The Providence (RI) Journal
"Sabar's trip to his father's village yields a fresh perspective on such places as Baghdad and Mosul while introducing readers to a slice of Iraqi culture that has all but vanished."
– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"What makes My Father's Paradise a lovely, meaningful book is that Ariel Sabar's search has unexpected conclusions."
– The Book Studio (WETA/PBS)
"Written with a reporter's flair for people and places . . . Recommended."
– Library Journal
"A sensitive exploration . . . [Sabar's grandmother] emerges as a quiet heroine."
"This touching and brilliantly written book tells an incredible story of a man divided among three cultures. The striking discontinuities in Yona Sabar’s journey reveal the transformations of an immigrant’s life as much as its trials and heartbreak."
– Sammy Smooha, Ph.D., winner of the 2008 Israel Prize for Sociology and author of Arabs and Jews in Israel
"A lyrical and moving . . . portrait of a lost world. The author renders his father's story with incredible understanding and pathos. It is beautifully written, and readers should run, not walk, to the bookstore to buy it."
– World Jewish Digest
"An involving memoir that works as both a family saga and an examination of a lost but treasured community."
"Original and riveting ... A must read."
– Middle East Policy
"What to read now to better understand Iraq"
– World Literature Today
"Extraordinarily compelling . . . A breakthrough work that provides the reader with a well-researched history of Kurdish Jewry intertwined with an intimate family saga [and] a critical eye towards the erosion of history and the ways in which history shapes who we are as human beings."– Sephardic Heritage Update
"Sabar conjures up life in Jewish Kurdistan with the colorful story-telling skills worthy of A Thousand and One Nights. ... This narrative is a significant contribution to the much ignored history of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews."
– The Jerusalem Report
"A hot item on the Jewish book talk circuit"
– Baltimore Jewish Times
"I’m in love with a book about a Bermuda-shorts-and-T-shirt-wearing Jewish boy who grew up in Los Angeles and the odd, frugal scholar from Kurdish Iraq who is his father."
– Hadassah Magazine
"Fascinating and moving . . . My Father’s Paradise is an important contribution to literature about Jewish history, language, identity, and culture, as well as what it means to be a Jew in the modern world."
– Jewish Book World
An "outstanding book."
– The New York Jewish Week & The Los Angeles Jewish Journal
• • •
MY FATHER'S PARADISE won a National Book Critics Circle Award, chosen by a national group of 900 active book reviewers as the best autobiography published in the United States in 2008.
It also won the Rodda Book Award, given by the Church and Synagogue Library Association to the adult book published from 2005 to 2008 that best "exhibits excellence in writing and has contributed significantly to congregational libraries through promotion of spiritual growth."In August 2009, My Father's Paradise was named a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an international award recognizing works of "high literary quality" that help promote peace and global understanding.The book also made The Christian Science Monitor's list of "Best Nonfiction Books of 2008" and its list of "10 Great Books for Father's Day." It was also a Philadelphia Inquirer staff pick and a Publishers Weekly "hot" indie title, and was selected as a "great read" by Indie Bound, the national association of independent booksellers.Since 2008, the Jewish communities of Baltimore, Denver, Long Island (NY), Northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), and The Twin Cities (MN) have chosen My Father's Paradise as their "One Book" community read, using the book as a springboard for wide-ranging events and year-long discussions of culture, history and identity.
PRAISE FOR HEART OF THE CITY
"With all due respect to Virginia, New York, too, is for lovers...The apparent connection between personal passion and public place inspires a beguiling romp into environmental psychology, which then leads to nine couples whose first encounter (and illuminating, sometimes bittersweet postscripts) represent 'an affirmation of the everyday miracle that is New York.'"– New York Times
"What to Read in 2011: New Titles Bound to Make a Splash"– Christian Science Monitor
"A wonderful, life-affirming collection of romances, all the better because they're real."– Daily Mail (UK)
"Cozy, seductive narratives [that] illuminate how NYC's adrenaline-spiking public spaces help steer potential lovers together"– Kirkus Reviews
A "Great Read"– People
A "Best Book of 2011"
– Jewish Journal
"Written in novelistic style…each of these nine stories define serendipity…An engaging, moving and lively read"– Toronto Star
"Ask anyone from Woody Allen to Carrie Bradshaw: there's no love story quite like a New York City love story. In Heart of the City, Ariel Sabar tells nine true — and very moving — stories of people who met in the Big Apple."
– Town & Country
"Thoroughly engaging...Sabar has teased out each of these couples' magnificent, ordinary stories and compiled them into a sparkling love letter to the city."– BookPage
"Quirky true tales about city landmarks and chance encounters"
– New York Magazine
"Love among the landmarks"– New York Daily News
"National Books Critics Circle Award–winner Ariel Sabar’s Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York finds that, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to meet one’s soul mate in the Big Apple, as these tales of real couples—a sailor and a runaway, a college student and a cop—attest."
"If you’ve ever felt romantic upon seeing the Chrysler Building at dusk or excited instead of skeeved out by the rush of humanity in Times Square, you’re not alone; environmental psychologists do too. As does journalist Ariel Sabar in Heart of the City. He not only reports on the science of attraction in man-made environments—are some places 'more likely to induce friendly glances than others? Could some actually encourage people to take the first steps toward falling in love?'—but also, more compellingly, offers true stories as evidence that the answers are yes and yes."
"Books we love about love"– More magazine
"Required reading"– New York Post
"This collection will appeal to New Yorkers for the love that Sabar lavishes on 'The City' as well as to anyone enjoying charming, uplifting tales of romance."– Library Journal
"New York has been described as a city of 8 million lonely people. Don’t believe it. Ariel Sabar…didn’t believe it. And after reading his second book, “Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York,” due out on Valentine’s Day, you won’t either…The stories touch the heart. They are poignant, compelling, absorbing, romantic, and just flat-out sweet. Reading them, even hardened cynics will feel the urge to hug someone."– Providence Journal
"Charming true stories"– St. Petersburg Times ("Notable" book)
"The characters represent a broad economic and social spectrum—an immigrant woman from the Philippines, upwardly mobile twenty-somethings, a young sailor, and a destitute runaway...In a thoughtful and comprehensive introduction, Sabar discusses our expanding awareness of the importance of place in how and whether people find one another, including the concept of public space, advances in brain science, and the evolving field of environmental psychology."
– Jewish Book World
"Utterly heartwarming...Excellent"– Brides magazine
"Sabar marries the science of crowds and the randomness of love at first sight to heart-melting results"– American Way
"With each story I felt like I was watching a mini movie...This collection affirmed my belief that people can find true love in life if they keep their eyes open."– Lisa Loeb, actress and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter
"Mr. Sabar is shamelessly romantic. His parents — one an Iraqi immigrant, the other a daughter of a fancy Manhattan family — started talking one day in Washington Square Park. To find the nine true stories of couples who found each other in New York City that compose his book, he scanned decades of wedding announcements, posted ads on Craigslist and even enlisted an intern to buttonhole tourists at landmarks. The results have the power to make saps out of us all. In one of the stories, a 25-year-old German factory worker sits down next to a newly separated 40-year-old woman and her son on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and they wind up getting married. And in 1941, a teenage runaway is sleeping in Central Park when a sailor offers to help her light her cigarette. They were together for more than 60 years."– Susannah Meadows, in The New York Times