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Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Dave Eggers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,7761312,109 (4.12)277
Authors:Dave Eggers
Info:McSweeney's (2009), Hardcover, 342 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2009)

  1. 50
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» See also 277 mentions

English (124)  Dutch (5)  German (2)  All languages (131)
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
This is such a disturbing book. It's made worse by knowing that the story is true. It begins with the Zeitoun family who were caught in the oncoming Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Mr. Zeitoun and his wife, owners of a painting/construction business, and their four children were involved in the maelstrom of preparation for evacuation. However, Mr. Zeitoun (referred to as "Zeitoun" in this book) makes the decision to stay at home to weather the storm and watch his other properties while having his wife and children evacuate. This was probably the worst decision of his life.

What ensues afterward is painful story. Zeitoun remains to do good and help people as he is owner of a small working canoe. However, his good intentions were almost for naught as he was arrested and imprisoned unfairly and made to suffer for his Islamic background and appearance.

What happens in this story is almost unbelievable. The many lapses of good judgment by others and the cruelty and unfairness of our law enforcement agencies are downright frightening. How could such situations happen? It is so unfortunate.

In response, author Dave Eggers, decided to tell the Zeitoun family story in as much detail as possible. To try to right the wrongs, he, along with the Zeitoun family and McSweeney's, set up The Zeitoun Foundation which consists of multiple agencies to help victims of and also to prevent abuses such as those suffered by the Zeitoun family during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This was a step in the right direction after untold cruelty to a hardworking husband, father, business owner, and immigrant to America. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Jun 11, 2014 |
Couldn't bear to go on with this after hearing the end of the Zeitouns' story as a couple, with Zeitoun now in prison for assault and facing trial for soliciting his wife and stepson's murder. There may be some lesson about the perils of writing "character-driven" non-fiction here, but I don't know what it is.
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
A real eye opener. This happened in the United States?
  zguba | Apr 25, 2014 |
This was too much of a one-sided fluff piece, a problem of so many journalists, for my taste. The story had potential but Eggers couldn't pull it off. ( )
  mlbelize | Jan 27, 2014 |
I could not put this book down (I read it in just a few sittings) but I did not actually like it. The story was gripping but the style of writing was irritating. [b:Zeitoun|6512154|Zeitoun|Dave Eggers|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1296580156s/6512154.jpg|6703901] is about a man named Zeitoun and it is also about the natural disaster Hurricane Katrina, and the civil disaster that followed. (Civil disaster, what is a better term?). It pretty much deserves all the acclaim and praise it got, I’m just picky.

Eggers' portrait of Zeitoun is of a strong, driven, and sympathetic hero wrongfully imprisoned in the aftermath of Katrina due to racial profiling & controversial post 9/11 policing. He is likable, I liked him. Kathy, Zeitoun’s wife, I didn’t like. I think she came across as a dramatic pity-me/victim. Coupled with the sensational style and short sentences of Eggers’ prose, I found the bits about Kathy kind of annoying. I admit I started skimming when narration switched back to Kathy. I also admit that I am being dismissive about her emotional suffering, but this is my review and that is just what I thought.

The book succeeds in getting the reader enraged by how terribly many citizens of New Orleans were treated in the aftermath of Katrina - the disorganization & lack of relief help by FEMA on one hand, and the depressingly efficient abuse of power by the law enforcement on the other. Zeitoun (the man) serves as an excellent witness to both, and Eggers is wise to focus a book about Katrina on the remarkable experiences of one man. But while Zeitoun's personal story is a key factor in why the book is so powerful and accessible, I sometimes found the “emotional narrative” distracting and annoying.

Several years ago I read [b:A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius|4953|A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius|Dave Eggers|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327714834s/4953.jpg|42857] and I loved it. Like Zeitoun, it is non-fiction about a person who finds himself in a rather unique situation. The two books have completely different writing styles (fittingly, based on the contrast in subject matter). A Heartbreaking Work was hilarious! Eggers took a simple topic (his young adulthood) and turned it into a funny and interesting book. Zeitoun on the other hand, took an interesting topic (the post-Katrina nightmare & the account of a muslim man living it) and, in my eyes, turned it into a sensationalist, mediocre book - because of the style of writing. Zeitoun is part journalism/part profile and I read it as if it were “new journalism.” I recognize that a common trait of New Journalism is subjectivity, and I usually do not mind that (especially if I agree with the author’s stance, and I do in Zeitoun) but I know Eggers as a humorous writer and I wish he’d used that voice rather than the dramatic tone I felt the book took on. OK, its unfair of me to want Eggers to always write humor, but that’s not exactly what I’m saying. I believe (as objectively as I can) that Zeitoun would have been a “better” book if it hadn’t been so sensationalist.

So that’s what I think.

I wish I’d read this book earlier, like within the year it came out, just cause then Katrina would have been fresh in my mind. That said, if I’d read the book back in 2009 I probably wouldn’t have googled his name in the Fall of 2012 (which I did after finishing the book) and then I wouldn’t have discovered this shocking article:


Since the Zeitoun was published, Zeitoun violently assaulted his wife, gotten divorced, and then allegedly plotted to have Kathy & her son murdered. Wow.

I have just complained about how Eggers wrote about the aftermath of Zeitoun in the aftermath of Katrina because it was too much about the emotions of the characters, and I stand by that. But if Eggers were to rewrite/add-on to the Aftermath focusing on the characters I think that would be highly appropriate and quite interesting! (Perhaps he has, perhaps I read an old edition of the book.)

Again, that’s what I think. The end.
( )
  allisonneke | Dec 17, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (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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...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
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.
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
...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
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(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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