This was my third memoir from one of the many Jewish emigrés of the formerly large and thriving ancient Jewish community in Iraq (once comprising a thThis was my third memoir from one of the many Jewish emigrés of the formerly large and thriving ancient Jewish community in Iraq (once comprising a third of the population, they are now said to number less than a dozen). Unlike the other two books, Sasson Somekh's was less a chronological autobiography and more a series of vignettes. Imagine going to chat with the author over tea once per week, and each week, he narrated a different recollection of his life -- that is much the flavor of this book. The chapters are self-contained and not long, which makes for easy reading. (Although, not fast reading -- I found myself inclined to go slowly, re-reading often, and reflecting on what the author had written.) At times he writes with gentle humor; other passages are subtly -- but deeply -- poignant.
One of the delights of the book is that Somekh not only includes photographs but also gives descriptions of them. For instance, rather than simply saying, "This is a photo of the whole family at a wedding," he goes through the photo, pointing out individual family members, describing them, their history, what eventually becomes of them, and so on.
As a language buff, I found great interest in Somekh's discussions of Iraqi Arabic and other languages; and literary buffs will no doubt be interested in Somkeh's run-ins with and descriptions of literary notables from Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world.
This would likely be a good book for those interested in the (former) Iraqi Jewish community; Arab Jews in general; and the history of Iraq. A history which, it should be noted, goes far deeper and is much richer than the modern-day headlines of bombings and political unrest....more
I quite enjoyed this book. Unlike the reviewer below, I found the book to in fact be quite relevant to current-day events, inasmuch as I feel a good uI quite enjoyed this book. Unlike the reviewer below, I found the book to in fact be quite relevant to current-day events, inasmuch as I feel a good understanding of a nation's history is useful in understanding its present situation. (Admittedly, I have both an interest in history generally and in the Middle East specifically, including Iraqi Jewry, so it may be easier for me to enjoy a book like this, than for a reader who does not share those interests.)
For me one of the draws of this book was its inclusion of general Iraqi history as well as the author's specific family history -- I was able to learn more about the nation while also learning about a particular family. Also interesting was her return to modern-day Iraq to visit the tiny and declining Jewish community there -- a poignant state of affairs given how large and bustling that ancient community once was.
Readers interested in Arab Jewish history, the Jewish Diaspora, and the history of Iraq and/or the Middle East, would probably enjoy this book and the wealth of information it contains....more