As a correspondent living in Baghdad the early aughts, Wendell Steavenson made time in the rapid ricochet of dispatches from today's Iraq for a moral reckoning with its recent history. THE WEIGHT OF A MUSTARD SEED is a biography of war hero and Baathist, General Kamel Sachet. It is also a tragic microcosm of compromised Iraqi life under Saddam Hussein (and now, the Americans). Sympathetic but relentless, Steavenson probes Sachet's life through the stories of the insolent prisoners, exiled guards, mod wives, broken army psychologists, moderate imams, and jihadist sons looking for signs of resistance or repentance. Steavenson uses the novelistic, sometimes-suspect literary journalism style of Ryszard Kapuscinski, but her loyalty to and honesty her subjects undercuts any melodrama, and contributes to something much larger: love of what is true, and grief for what is lost.

The Weight of a Mustard Seed: The Intimate Story of an Iraqi General and His Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061721885
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Broadside Books - March 16th, 2010

Resurrecting Hebrew ($21) is the story of how Eliezer Ben-Yehuda’s efforts to rescue a dead language, Hebrew, and restore it as a spoken language, were central to the Zionist effort. Ilan Stavans shows how the tensions between the Diaspora and Israel play out in the arena of language. Stavans recalls his personal journey as well as offering a compact history of modern Hebrew.

Resurrecting Hebrew (Jewish Encounters Series) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805242317
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Schocken - September 16th, 2008

Ariel Sabar’s lovely little book, My Father’s Paradise (Algonquin, $25.95), is at once a history of the Kurdish Jews and a family memoir.  Ariel’s father, Yona, the last child Bar Mitzvahed in Zakho in northern Iraq, grew up speaking Aramaic, the language that dominated the Middle East at the time of Jesus. After Israel was founded, the Iraqi Jews were forced to immigrate there. Israel was not prepared for the enormous influx of very poor, unskilled and in some cases illiterate Jews from Arab countries, and Ariel’s grandparents, Rahamim and Miryam, who had been respected citizens in Zakho, were subject to bruising discrimination. Nevertheless, Yona went to university in Israel and graduate school at Yale and now is a professor at UCLA. His story is the remarkable leap from a primitive village to the most sophisticated Western life. Ariel Sabar, a journalist, wrote this book as an act of repentance for his teenage defiance and embarrassment of his hopelessly unhip father.

My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Family's Past Cover Image
ISBN: 9781565129337
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Algonquin Books - October 13th, 2009