How Shall We Sing?

A Mediterranean Journey Through A Jewish Family

Through my mother's family in Paris, I had only recently got a taste of France's North African Jewish diaspora and felt that it had nothing to do with me. Though I loved the food, growing briefly plump on deep-fried sweets and savouries, and was enchanted by the hospitality, I longed for privacy and a lowering of decibels. I felt foolish that, apart from the words for bellybutton, cucumber and tiger, I was unable to remember a single word of Hebrew, which had been my first language. When I tried to argue the case for the atheism I had been brought up with in the Antipodes, I could not shake off the impression that family members suspected I was ashamed of my origins.

This book is about a different kind of Jewish diaspora, about people whose dominant experience is not of tragedy and loss, but of triumphant survival through displacement.

Fanning out from the tiny island of Malta and the least known Jewish community in the world, Aline P'nina Tayar's family find homes, acceptance and a kind of peace in an assortment of nations and cultures around the Mediterranean. They settle and thrive in Tunisia, France, Italy, Egypt. Even, finally, in Australia.

The author, who describes herself as a Maltese Jewish Australian Englishwoman, brings to this saga of transplantation a wry, gentle humour, a brilliantly observant eye for cultural nuance and an unselfconscious compassion for her extraordinary ancestry.

Picador/Pan Macmillan
ISBN 0-330-36211-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-61364-458-4 (ebook)

"A very well told, evocative memoir of several generations of the author's far-flung family in the Jewish diaspora. Most of the family lived in Malta, Italy, Tunisia, Israel and Egypt, and Tayar does an excellent job bringing their lives and times alive. This is an adroit mixture of family history and social and cultural history of the Jews in this part of the world, mainly in the often tumultuous 20th century" - Slim Khezri, Goodreads Reader Review