Only in America: An Immigrant’s Success Story, by Wadie P. Deddeh, as told to Linda E. Sheridan (AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN, 2019, 138 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
January 11, 2020 (San Diego) - The late Wadie P. Deddeh, as told to Linda E. Sheridan, has written an insightful book that speaks to what America is all about; Only in America: An Immigrant’s Success Story.
Every book and story has to have a beginning and ending, and in the words of the author(s) of this book it states: “As I talk about being born and growing up in Iraq, I think it is important to describe and distinguish who the Chaldean people are and what challenges they have encountered. Chaldeans are an ethnic minority of Iraqi Catholics and one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. Their native language is Aramaic. Throughout the centuries, Chaldeans faced varying levels of discrimination and persecution, and were compelled to travel to other parts of the world, where they established new communities.”
The collaboration of Linda E. Sheridan and Wadie P. Deddeh to effectively tell this poignant story is timely, as it comes at a time when there is so much unrest in Iraq, and rumors of war with neighboring Iran. Sheridan is uniquely qualified and positioned to assist in telling this story about Deddeh, as she is the CEO/Founder of the San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance.
The author(s) further wants the reader to know, and feel it important: “Chaldeans believe that they descended from ancient Mesopotamians, who lived in the geographic area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.”
I now understand why the author(s) wants to start from the beginning, for until reading this book, I was totally unaware of what a “Chaldean” was, and I am sure other readers of this book will have a similar ignorance.
The authors of this insightful and history intensive book further states: “The grandest of the Babylonian kings, King Nebuchadnezzar, built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. With his sumptuous palace at the top, he presided over the glorious Babylonian Empire for many years. During his reign, Nebuchadnezzar established a wealthy and politically stable Chaldean empire. Mesopotamia was located in an area adjacent to Turkey, Jordan and Syria, in what is known today as Iraq. This region’s original name, Mesopotamia, remained until the 20th century, when Great Britain renamed it Iraq.”
Chaldeans are an Aramaic-speaking, Eastern Rite Catholics that are indigenous to Iraq. Chaldeans have a history that spans more than 5,500 years, dating back to Mesopotamia, which was known as the cradle of civilization and is present day Iraq.
It is against this background that Wadie P. Deddeh would establish himself as a distinguished California State Senator. Recognized as the first Iraqi-born American elected to office in the United States, Wadie continued up until his passing to speak out when it came to issues regarding the Chaldean community. In 2013, at an El Cajon City Council meeting, without reservations Mr. Deddeh addressed the racial and derogatory statements made toward the Chaldean community by El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis. Backlash from the controversy caused Lewis to resign and El Cajon City Councilmember Bill Wells appointed to finish his term.
A documentary film, “A Lion’s Journey: The Story of Wadie P. Deddeh, achieving the American Dream through faith, hope and determination,” by award-winning filmmaker Bonni Rooney of Group Indy Productions, was released in 2009.
As mentioned earlier, there is always a beginning to every story, and in Only in America this beginning starts with Deddeh coming to America in this poignant and defining passage as told to Sheridan: “On Sept. 1, 1947, I was to leave Baghdad to begin my long journey to the United States. My itinerary was Baghdad to Beirut to Haifa and finally, Alexandria, Egypt. In Alexandria I would board the SS Volcania and sail to New York. It was the exciting beginning of a great adventure, but also the first step up to the precipice of a great unknown. I was going to a strange new land that was very different from the traditions of Iraq and Iran, but I was a young man trusting my destiny.”
Of course, along the way, and with the helpful and able assistance of Sheridan, Only in America would tell the story of how this immigrant from Iraq would become a confidant of California Governor Pete Wilson and Presidents Reagan and Clinton. Wadie P. Deddeh is truly an “Immigrant’s Success Story”.
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online news magazine that has partnered with the East County Magazine. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.