Mira and I are proud to announce the publication of a new edition of “Memories of Eden” for the US market, later this month, by Northwestern University Press. We have been collaborating with the Press, based in Evanston, Illinois, for nearly two years and are pleased to say this new version contains several new photographs as well as enhancements to those in our first edition. Some readers have added to our knowledge of the period and we have profited from their input by including the points they have raised.
The new cover is very different from our first effort, and the Press has done a great job of the entire jacket design. It is available for pre-order from Amazon.com now; please watch out for it in a bookstore near you in the States very soon.
According to legend, the Garden of Eden was located in Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq, and for millennia the Jews resided peacefully there. Memories of Eden: A Journey Through Jewish Baghdad reconstructs the final years of the oldest Jewish community in the world, using the letters and other writings that Violette Shamash (1912-2006) sent to her daughter Mira Rocca and son-in-law, the British journalist Tony Rocca, over a period of twenty years. Collected and edited by the Roccas, the writings compose a deeply textured memoir—personal, yet revealing of the complex dynamics of the Middle East.
Shamash creates an exquisitely detailed portrait of like in the City of Caliphs, beginning near the end of Ottoman rule in 1917 and running through the British Mandate, the emergence of an independent Iraq in 1932, and the start of dictatorial government. Shamash clearly loved the world in which she grew up but is altogether honest in her depiction of the problems facing Baghdad’s diverse population. That world was shattered by the Farhud, a brutal massacre of hundreds of Iraqi Jews over two days in 1941, which Shamash witnessed firsthand. An event that has received very slight historical coverage, the Farhud is further described and placed in context by Tony Rocca in his afterword.