Oct 15, 2008

First chapter for free!

Ariel Sabar

! Read the first chapter of the book MY FATHER'S PARADISE ! (CLICK TO READ)

I am the keeper of my family’s stories. I am the guardianof its honor. I am the defender of its traditions. As thefirst-born son of a Kurdish father, these, they tell me, aremy duties. And yet even before my birth I resisted.Our first clash — really more of a proxy battle — was over my name.

My father wanted to call me Aram, after the swath of ancient Syria wherethe first Aramaic-speaking tribes dwelt in the second millennium b.c.A son named Aram would be a thread through three thousand years ofhistory, uncoiling through Israel and Kurdistan back to a patch of landbetween the Habur and Euphrates rivers where my father’s native languagefirst graced the lips of man. A son named Aram would pass thisawesome birthright to his own son, and that son to his, on and on downthe line, like princes in a fairy tale.This may have been my father’s reasoning.

But it was not my mother’s.She seemed to understand me even before I was born, because she didn’tmuch care for Aram. As an American she knew the cruelty of children tokids with weird names. Aram, she told my father, was a nonstarter.And so even before I drew a breath, I had landed my first blow.

Ours was a clash of civilizations, writ small. He was ancientKurdistan. I was 1980s L.A.He grew up in a dusty town in northern Iraq, in a crowded mud-brickshack without electricity or plumbing. I grew up in a white stucco ranchhouse in West Los Angeles, on a leafy street guarded by private policecruisers marked bel-air patrol.

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