I am very pleased to be part of the WOW – Women on Writing Blog tour for Claudette Sutton’s biography Farewelln Aleppo: My Father, My People and their Long Journey Home.
Claudette Sutton shares her father’s story in her book Farewell, Aleppo – from his early years in Aleppo, Syria, to his move in 1940 to Shanghai and then ultimately to New York in 1947.
But Sutton gives us so much more. There is such rich detail about her father’s early life in Aleppo, about the war years in Shanghai and ultimately, about the history of Jews throughout the Middle East.
Sutton spent years interviewing her father and others in a quest to understand her father and his story, which he had asked her to tell. As she said, it
“launched myriad questions in my mind about identity, family, and culture: what remains, what evolves, and what is left behind.”
I was fortunate to receive a copy of Sutton’s book. I hoped to learn more about the conflict and issues in Aleppo that have led to the present bloodshed in Syria today.
Well, I got this and so much more. It was fascinating to see how well Sutton’s father Mike was able to adapt no matter where he landed or how challenging it was, and at so young an age.
There were so many interesting photos of people and places throughout the book that gave a glimpse of what Aleppo and Shanghai were like in the 30’s and 40’s.
I was stunned to learn that in 1948 there were over 30,000 Jews living in three Syrian cities (including Aleppo) but by 2003, there were less than one hundred in the whole of Syria.
Yet, as Syrian Jews left the Middle East, whether by choice or were expelled, they did not leave their culture behind. As Sutton states, the “tendency of Jews throughout history has been to carry their identity with them and not have it identified by place.”
This was an intriguing biography and one rich in history, one I encourage everyone to read.
Paperback: 180 Pages
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (October 1, 2014)
Amazon Link: click here
The Jews of Aleppo, Syria, had been part of the city’s fabric for more than two thousand years, in good times and bad, through conquerors and kings. But in the middle years of the twentieth century, all that changed.
To Selim Sutton, a merchant with centuries of roots in the Syrian soil, the dangers of rising anti-Semitism made clear that his family must find a new home. With several young children and no prospect of securing visas to the United States, he devised a savvy plan for getting his family out: “exporting” his sons. In December 1940, he told the two oldest, Meïr and Saleh, that arrangements had been made for their transit to Shanghai, where they would work in an uncle’s export business. China, he hoped, would provide a short-term safe harbor and a steppingstone to America.
But the world intervened for the young men, now renamed Mike and Sal by their Uncle Joe. Sal became ill with tuberculosis soon after arriving and was sent back to Aleppo alone. And the war that soon would engulf every inhabited land loomed closer each day. Joe, Syrian-born but a naturalized American citizen, barely escaped on the last ship to sail for the U.S. before Pearl Harbor was bombed and the Japanese seized Shanghai. Mike was alone, a teen-ager in an occupied city, across the world from his family, with only his mettle to rely on as he strived to survive personally and economically in the face of increasing deprivation.
Farewell, Aleppo is the story—told by his daughter—of the journey that would ultimately take him from the insular Jewish community of Aleppo to the solitary task of building a new life in America. It is both her father’s tale that journalist Claudette Sutton describes and also the harrowing experiences of the family members he left behind in Syria, forced to smuggle themselves out of the country after it closed its borders to Jewish emigration.
The picture Sutton paints is both a poignant narrative of individual lives and the broader canvas of a people’s survival over millennia, in their native land and far away, through the strength of their faith and their communities. Multiple threads come richly together as she observes their world from inside and outside the fold, shares an important and nearly forgotten epoch of Jewish history, and explores universal questions of identity, family, and culture.
About The Author:
It’s no coincidence that family is the central focus of both Farewell, Aleppo and the work that has been the driving force of its author’s professional life.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the close-knit community of Syrian Jews all were part of Claudette Sutton’s childhood in suburban Maryland, along with her parents and siblings. Years later, as a young mother in Santa Fe, it seemed only natural to think of creating a similar kind of close support for families in her new hometown by means of her journalism training and experience.
Thus began what is now Tumbleweeds, an award-winning local publication that for over twenty years has been expanding its role in serving the city’s families. As the quarterly newspaper has grown, so have its scope and community contributions, mixing news, commentary, personal writing, advice, and activity guides—all reflecting Claudette’s vision of a community resource to help her neighbors face the challenges of parenting.
Claudette’s eloquent writing, the other great strength she combines with the paper’s wide-ranging utility, has been a door to the world for her since she was a teen-ager. As a reporter, she realized early, “You can learn about everything”—a much more appealing option after high school than the enforced specialization of college.
After three years writing for the Montgomery County Sentinel in Maryland, Claudette moved to New York, where she earned a bachelor’s degree from the New School for Social Research. Living in proximity to another side of her extensive family, she built a deeper understanding of the Jewish exodus from Syria that has formed the backdrop for the story she tells so movingly in Farewell, Aleppo.
The narrative chronicles her father’s youth, his odyssey across oceans and continents, and the new life he made in America. But as Claudette talked with him and researched more deeply, she saw also the essential elements of the larger tale. What began as one man’s story grew into a portrait of the history that made his journey necessary, and of how a vibrant people have preserved their community and culture through the thousands of years from biblical times to today.
Find Claudette Online:
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Claudettesutton
Be sure to check the other blogs which are part of the tour.
———-Blog Tour Dates
Monday, October 23rd @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
Tuesday, October 24th @ Bring on Lemons with Julie Assel Thomas
Fellow author Julie Assel Thomas shares her thoughts after reading “Farewell, Aleppo” by Claudette Sutton. Don’t miss this engaging and enlightening book blog stop!
Wednesday, October 25th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Madeline Sharples reads and reviews “Farewell, Aleppo” by Claudette Sutton and shares her insight and thoughts with readers at Choices.
Thursday, October 26th @ Jerry Waxler
Readers of Jerry Waxler’s memoir blog will enjoy reading Jerry’s deep thoughts as he reviews “Farewell, Aleppo” by Claudette Sutton.
Friday, October 27th @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley Baird reviews and shares her thoughts after reading the moving story “Farewell, Aleppo” by Claudette Sutton. Don’t miss this book blog stop. https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/
Monday, October 30th @ CMash Loves to Read
Today’s guest blogger at CMash Loves to Read is none other than Claudette E. Sutton. Hear from her on the topic of ” ” and learn more about her book “Farewell, Aleppo”.
Friday, November 3rd @ Janese Dixon
Don’t miss today’s author spotlight at Janese Dixon’s blog – the author is none other than Claudette E. Sutton. Readers can learn more about Sutton and her beautifully written tale: “Farewell, Aleppo; My Father, My People, and Their Long Journey Home.”
Wednesday, November 8th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal J. Casavant-Otto reviews “Farewell, Aleppo” by Claudette Sutton. Crystal was very moved by this story and can’t wait to share her thoughts with readers.
Thursday, November 9th @ Memoir Writer’s Journey with Kathleen Pooler
Kathleen Pooler of Memoir Writer’s Journey shares her deep thoughts after reading and reviewing “Farewell, Aleppo” by Claudette Sutton.
Friday, November 10th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Linda Appleman Shapiro reviews Claudette Suttons “Farewell, Aleppo” and shares her insight and thoughts with readers at her blog!