17 May 2012


I just speed-read my way through Dave Eggers' Zeitoun, and honestly, once I started it, I couldn't put the damn book down! Zeitoun is a work of non-fiction based on the true story of the events that occurred to Abdulrahman Zeitoun before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina in September of 2004. Before reading this book, I will be honest: when I hear the words "Hurricane Katrina" two things come to mind - Kanye West's telling statement on a live national television broadcast and my own experience gutting houses in the Lower 9th Ward nearly two years after the hurricane struck.

I picked up this book, initially drawn to it by the cover - how strange, a man paddling in a canoe through a neighborhood. Then came the name. Names like this have been imprinted into our national subconscious - as Americans living in the post 9/11 world, it has been ingrained in us to suspect names like this and people who look a certain way. And it is unfortunate. How funny and strange that what drew me to this book was the way it looked and its title. The very things I try not to be aware of, I try not to make judgments of, are seeping into the way in which I consume things, including literature! But rest assured, I bought the book not just out of curiosity. I bought it because the proceeds go to the Zeitoun Foundation to help rebuild the community of New Orleans, a place I will always hold dear to my heart. And I bought it because after meeting Dave Eggers and Achek Deng of What is the What, I grew to trust him as an author and as a person trying to do good through his gift of writing.

I read this book quickly and aptly because it was good. It was informative, it was honest, it was structured beautifully, and it made me feel like I was a part of something I did not know existed. I knew some of the aftermath of Katrina, and I was generally angry about the overall response of our government and FEMA - but to know that a man (among many others) was picked up due to racial profiling, and kept in an ill-fitting maximum security prison, when so many people were in dire need of help... it just got me. I felt angry and helpless and empowered all at once while reading this. I felt better for becoming aware of this, but so saddened by what happened to Zeitoun and his family. I think everyone should read this book, if not just to support the Zeitoun Foundation, but to gain a truly unique picture of what happened in the days and months following Katrina. To know another piece of the puzzle of what happened.


  1. Kanye West's telling statement?? What did he say that was so telling? "George Bush doesn't care about black people" is one of the most ridiculous and absurd statements uttered by a delusional and troubled dilettante. I am so glad that Twitter wasn't as popular during Katrina. What would have been just a stupid tweet was instead delivered, shaking and stammering like a seventh-grader running for student council, to all of America over live television. Never has someone's true character risen to the surface in such a humiliating and memorable way. Let me summerize: Kanye is an Asshole.

    1. Thanks for your response.

      I'm not saying I entirely agreed with KW, I just thought it was telling that he decided to blurt it out on live national television! I'm sorry this is all you took away from my post - I was just hoping to write a book review that sheds light on a whole different side of Katrina, a side that to me, is much more valuable than KW's TV spotlight. Thanks for reading, I will take your comment to heart.


    2. I have to say, I am surprised by your reply. I did like what you wrote but I have a hair-trigger sensitivity to KW. I actually feel a bit embarrassed by my rant. I have already added Eggers book to my to-buy booklist so your article did inspire real appreciation and a thank-you in advance for a good book recommendation!

    3. No need to be embarrassed M! I totally took your comment to heart. I go back and forth on KW. Some days, I like his music and can sort of see past the persona, but then other days I remember him interrupted Taylor Swift, and Mike Meyers and think, damn he is such an a-hole! But, that said, Zeitoun is such a good read! If we lived in the same town, I'd totally lend you my copy. Let me know what you think!