My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar is the third book I’ve received from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer‘s program, and my favorite so far. A journalist by trade, Sabar attempts to track his father’s life story from his early childhood in a small town in Iraqi Kurdistan, to his family’s emigration to Israel in the 1950s, to his pursuit of advanced studies and eventual settlement in the United States. Sabar’s father eventually becomes a professor of Aramaic (the native language of the Jews of Kurdistan – and the language spoken by Jesus) at UCLA.
It’s interesting to watch Sabar shift from a kid embarassed by his weird immigrant father to someone at first intrigued by and then passionate about exploring his family’s history. It’s also an amazing look at how much the world can change in just one lifetime – and how quickly a culture and a language can die out.
The fact that Sabar is a writer by trade definitely helps this story, although I found his search for a missing family member towards the end of the book to be a discordant note. I do however think that it’s realistic – life really never follows the path of a story book and not every piece fits together perfectly.
Another great book in which the author traces part of their family’s history is The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn, in which Mendelsohn attempts to discover what happened to his relatives who remained behind in Poland during the Holocaust. It’s a much longer book, but I would definitely recommend it, if you like My Father’s Paradise.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and will definitely keep an eye out for anything else Sabar may write.