I have been somewhat remiss in my book blogger duties this week, as I have not reminded all of you that “My Father’s Paradise” is now on sale and has been ever since Tuesday. However, I’m not sorry I waited, because I can remind you all today with the great story I now have.
Let me get a few things out of the way before I really get into this post.
My Review of “My Father’s Paradise”
Last night after work, I trecked up to Highland Park, IL to to the absolutely lovely little library up there (sorry I could only find a tiny picture that doesn’t really do it justice) to see Ariel Sabar, the journalist turned author of “My Father’s Paradise” talk about his book. It was to be a reading and Q&A and, I could only hope, a book signing as well. I made sure to print out a copy of my review and tucked it into my Advance Review Copy to take with me.
Although I was nearly the only person (other than Ariel and the library staff) under the age of 70, it was quite a nice event. Ariel started by giving sort of a brief outline of his book, from his own childhood to his father Yona’s childhood in Zakho in Kurdistan, to Yona’s immigration to Israel, his connection with Aramaic, Yona’s immigration to the United States and, finally, Ariel’s desire to know more about his father’s history after the birth of his own son. He gave just enough detail to entice those who had not yet read the book and give a quick refresher to those of us (me) who read the book three months ago.
After the rundown, Ariel read a great passage from his book. The passage had Yona thinking about similarities in Aramaic and Hebrew and expertly showed his through process and the connections he began making between the two languages.
At that point, there was a question and answer period. I was scribbling down the questions and answers as quickly as possible, so hopefully I accurately captured the spirit of what everyone was saying, but since I didn’t have any recording device, I am not going to pretend that I have Ariel’s exact words Some of the most interesting:
Q: When did you realize you would have to make the journey back to Iraq?
A: As a journalist, Ariel did not want to simply write a memoir for other people’s memories, he wanted to see things with his own eyes. Although the Jews had left Zakho over 50 years prior, it was almost as if they had been gone only a couple of weeks. Ariel and Yona met many Muslim Zurds who still remembered the names of Jews with whom they traded 50 years ago and the area of Zakho where the Jews had lived is still known as the ‘Jewish Quarter.’
A: Yona originally had mixed feelings. Part of it was a reluctance as he was trying to figure out what Ariel (always the troublemaker) was up to. In addition, he lived by the adage “You don’t put yourself in the mouths of other people,” he basically wanted to stay out of the spotlight. Still, he played along. After reading the book he told his son, ‘you saw things about me that I didn’t see myself, but were true.’ He also realized at that point that in his own way, Ariel was trying to preserve the history of the Kurdish Jews just as Yona had done.
Q: What percentage of the Kurdish population was Jewish before the formation of the Jewish state of Israel?
A: Less than 1% of the Kurdish population over the five states Kurdistan covers was Jewish. Given that, it is amazing that this tiny minority population, cut off from much of the rest of Jewish life, maintained their own traditions and their own langauge amid the dominant majority of Muslim Kurds.
The best part of the night, though was the book signing. As I said earlier, I was nearly the only person there under the age of 70. Because of that, and the fact that I already had my book and didn’t need to go and buy one, I was one of the first people in line to have my book signed.
Now, I thought that I had gotten used to communicating with authors and seeing them as normal people since I started my blog. It isn’t all that abnormal now for me to communicate with an author on LibraryThing, or via email. I discovered it is a tooootally different thing to meet the author in person. Evidently I’m not as sophisticated as I thought, because I was sort of nervous and star struck. Ariel was very nice, but he really didn’t help the situation (jittery, excited) either, for reasons you will see below.
Here is a rough approximation of our conversation (minus my stammering):
AS: Oh, you have a review copy? Are you a reviewer?
JK: Yes, I have a book blog, and I actually got a copy of your book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I brought a copy of my review with me (puts the review out on the table)
AS: I remember this review! This is one of the first reviews I ever read!
AS: I know you as Devourer of Books, who should I make this out to?
JK: I’m Jen
AS: I think that actually was the very first review I read, so I’ll give you credit for that.
JK: Still speechless
AS: Here you go!
JK: Thank you!
Well, at least I hope I said ‘thank you’. I’m so excited about the whole thing and the inscription he wrote to me, that I took a picture of the book for you all to share with me:
I’m super excited. The end.
Oh, and check out Ariel’s website for “My Father’s Paradise” here.