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Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
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Zeitoun (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Dave Eggers

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2,8651382,021 (4.11)289
Member:diana.n
Title:Zeitoun
Authors:Dave Eggers
Info:McSweeney's (2009), Hardcover, 342 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
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Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2009)

Recently added byprivate library, Flavie, EtonicQuasar, ccsfwrc, INorris, CaraP, clubrob, icchasin
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    LynnB: Story of ordinary people, like Mr. Zeitoun, who made a difference.
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» See also 289 mentions

English (131)  Dutch (5)  German (2)  All languages (138)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
Zeitoun gives us a scary glimpse into the breakdown of social and legal systems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While it's the personal story of the injustice visited on one man, it chills the reader to realize how thin is the margin between the boundaries of a civil society and chaos. Abdulaman Zeitoun is a Syrian immigrant who has succeeded in the United States. He comes from a proud and hard working family and in line with their admirable work ethic, he established a prosperous painting contracting business in New Orleans and married a native Louisiana women who had converted to Islam. They appear to have a loving and close-knit family.

As Hurricane Katrina approaches the family debates whether to evacuate. Kathy and the children leave to stay with her family in Baton Rouge. Zeitoun is determined to ride out the storm so he can look after rental properties they own and keep an eye on his business assets. Like tens of thousands of other New Orleanians Zeitoun soon realizes that the effects of the storm are much more devastating than anticipated. His house is flooded but he has a canoe that he uses to paddle around the city doing as many good deeds as he can. He is able to stay dry in a rental home that has not been flooded. His family worries about him but he reassures them via frequent cell phone contact.

A few days into the catastrophe armed police and National Guardsmen burst into his home and arrest him. Because of some property seen in the home they have concluded that he and his associates are looters. Looting, of course, was widespread throughout the city and one of the ugliest consequences of the storm. Zeitoun is whisked off to a makeshift lockup facility where the conditions are deplorable. He can get no legal representation and cannot contact his family. For a time, due to his ethnicity, he is suspected of being a terrorist but later inquiry by agents of Homeland Security disabuse this misapprehension. His family becomes frantic when they have not heard from him in days but they can gather no information about his well-being or whereabouts.

Zeitoun and the others are taken to a state prison where they are kept without legal representation for several weeks. Finally, through the unstinting efforts of family and friends he is freed, although the authorities still propose to charge him with misdemeanors. He finally clears his name.

The point of Zeitoun's experience is not that the legal system failed one man; sadly, this happens all too often. More deeply, it tells us that the civic, social and legal ties that bind us are very fragile. The looting that broke out after the storm was deplorable (another author has made the moral distinction between taking goods necessary for survival -- food, water, medicine -- and the wanton stealing and destruction that was seen in and around New Orleans), but that the response to looting brought with it complete disregard for the rule of law that the authorities are obliged to follow is disturbing.

For another and broader view of how our civic institutions failed so abysmally David Brinkley's book "The Deluge" is recommended. As well, the horrific story of the inability to protect vulnerable sick people at Memorial Hospital is told in "Five Days at Memorial".

Checking in on the Zeitoun's after the resolution of his legal problems reveals a sad outcome for Zeitoun and his wife. They divorced and he was later convicted with assault and charged with conspiring to have her murdered, a charge of which he was found innocent. They seemed in the story to be such a loving and loyal couple that perhaps the strain of their experience in Katrina was too much to sustain their ties. ( )
  stevesmits | Jun 30, 2015 |
A deeply troubling account of one family's experience during and after Hurricane Katrina. The book is a reminder of the horrific consequences of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Living in the United States with politically incorrect skin color continues to be a perpetually possible nightmare. No answers suggested in this book, just the truth of one family's nightmare come true. ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 28, 2015 |
You will not forget this book... It is a thought-provoking, terrifying and hopeful accounting of what turns out to be much more than a natural disaster. I highly recommend it. ( )
  jMitty | Mar 25, 2015 |
America's policies on the war on terror and Hurricane Katrina are the backdrop of this true tale of one family's fight to be considered Americans. Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family’s unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.
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  cm37107 | Mar 5, 2015 |
Excellent account of how one family survived Hurricane Katrina, and the lawlessness that occurred in its aftermath. ( )
  cgottlieb | Jan 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
In “Zeitoun,” what Dave Eggers has found in the Katrina mud is the full-fleshed story of a single family, and in telling that story he hits larger targets with more punch than those who have already attacked the thematic and historic giants of this disaster. It’s the stuff of great narrative nonfiction.
 
"Zeitoun" is a warm, exciting and entirely fresh way of experiencing Hurricane Katrina.

 
Eggers' sympathy for Zeitoun is as plain and real as his style in telling the man's story. He doesn't try to dazzle with heartbreaking pirouettes of staggering prose; he simply lets the surreal and tragic facts speak for themselves.
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dave Eggersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Timmermann, KlausÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wasel, UlrikeÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
...in the history of the world it might even be that there was more punishment than crime...
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Mark Twain
Dedication
For Abdulrahman, Kathy, Zachary, Nademah, Aisha, Safiya, and Ahmad in New Orleans.

For Ahmad, Antonia, Lutfi, and Laila in Málaga.

For Kousay, Nada, Mahmoud, Zakiya, Luay, Eman, Fahzia, Fatimah, Aisha, Munah, Nasibah, and all the Zeitouns of Jableh, Lattakia, and Arwad Island.

For the people of New Orleans.
First words
On moonless nights the men and boys of Jableh, a dusty fishing town on the coast of Syria, would gather their lanterns and set out in their quietest boats.
Quotations
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
...in de geschiedenis van de wereld is er misschien wel meer straf geweest dan misdaad...
Cormac McCarthy, The Road (De weg)

Voor wie een hamer heeft, lijkt alles op een spijker.
Mark Twain
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, longtime New Orleans residents Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun are cast into an unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water. In the days after the storm, Abdulrahman traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared-- arrested and accused of being an agent of al Qaeda.… (more)

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