The Cross and the Pear Tree: A Sephardic Journey

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Overview

Tracing the dramatic lives, through 500 years, of the old and distinguished Sephardic Jewish family from whom he is descended, Perera brilliantly recreates the history not only of his own people but of an entire culture.

A sweeping journey of self-discovery as a Sephardic Jew probes the history of his family, one of the oldest and most distinguished in his culture. A story of persecution, survival, and flight unfolds as the author takes us from the Iberian Peninsula...

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Overview

Tracing the dramatic lives, through 500 years, of the old and distinguished Sephardic Jewish family from whom he is descended, Perera brilliantly recreates the history not only of his own people but of an entire culture.

A sweeping journey of self-discovery as a Sephardic Jew probes the history of his family, one of the oldest and most distinguished in his culture. A story of persecution, survival, and flight unfolds as the author takes us from the Iberian Peninsula across the borders of Europe to Central America and the Holy Land to trace the diaspora created by the Inquisition and the Expulsion.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this vibrant, engaging chronicle, Perera, who teaches journalism at UC Berkeley, traces his family tree from the 14th century onward. Born in Guatemala to Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Jerusalem in the 1920s, Perera explains that his father came to the New World under a patriarchal curse. The author's great-grandfather, Yitzhak Moshe, rabbi of Jerusalem, exhorted his sons and grandchildren never to leave the Holy Land, threatening ``excommunication'' to those who disobeyed. Traveling to Alexandria, Egypt, Perera visits the grave of his grandfather, Aharon Heim Perera, a Torah scribe from Palestine who flouted Moshe's injunction by traveling abroad. In recovering his Jewish identity, the author liberates himself from the family curse. This beautifully written odyssey passes through Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition; France, where brothers Emile and Isaac Perera, rivals of the Rothschilds in wealth and influence, built railways; and the Sephardic community of Salonika, Greece, from which Perera's forebears escaped before the Nazi slaughter. He also interviews members of Israel's Sephardic underclass, who tell of discrimination by Israeli Ashkenazic Jews of European descent. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Guatemalan writer Perera (Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy, LJ 9/1/93) chronicles the history of his Sephardic family from his parents' generation back to the family's Spanish origins. He discovers many eminent ancestors. The French branch of the family boasted Jacob Pereira, the 18th-century creator of a manual alphabet and techniques of articulation for training deaf mutes; and the brothers Isaac and Emile Pereire, who introduced the railways in France and, despite great wealth, supported workers' rights and denounced child labor. In tracing his family's history, Perera discovers Christian branches of the family and believes that there may even be Muslim branches. Despite minor errors in his chapter on the Sepharad in Spain, Perera's family history is a worthy addition to the growing literature on the Sephardim. It complements Howard Sachar's Farewell Espaa: The World of Sephardim Remembered (LJ 11/15/94). Recommended for academic libraries and public libraries with strong reader interest in this area.-Robert Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520206526
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor Perera (1934-2003) was novelist and writer whose books include Rites: A Guatemalan Boyhood (1985) and The Last Lords of Palenque (California, 1986). The Cross and the Pear Tree was his best-known book.

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