boehnlei, January 18, 2011 (view all comments by boehnlei)
Zeitoun was the best book that I read in 2010. It was a shockingly revealing depiction of a family who endured Hurricane Katrina and the devastation, corruption, loss of rights, and heartbreak that went along with it. I was blown away by Eggers' narrative style- the book read like a novel but because it is non fiction, I knew that the descriptions I was reading were true.
As an American citizen living on the West Coast, I had no idea about the realities of the hurricane and Eggers certainly helped enlighten me on what unfolded during the natural disaster. Though there were some events that were unavoidable due to the course of nature (the progression of the hurricane itself), reading about the way that the hurricane's aftermath was dealt with left me at a loss to imagine that such corruption and disregard for humanity could happen in our own country.
Finally, I am very impressed with Dave Eggers as a writer and philanthropist. 100% of Eggers' own proceeds of this book go to the Zeitoun Foundation which then funnels money directly to non profits in the New Orleans area that work towards justice in many areas- environmental, humanitiarian, cultural, religous, artistic, etc. I hope this book continues to be bought and read and to improve the education of American citizens about the unbelievable unfairness and corruption that can and do happen in our own country- and are rarely publicized. But also of the strength of families like the Zeitouns' whose stories can be heard.
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Tangerine, January 12, 2011 (view all comments by Tangerine)
A heartfelt, true story of one man's experiences in New Orleans during Katrina. I don't want to give too much detail, other than to say my one quibble with the book is that the author doesn't give as much weight to what happened to the pets left behind as he does to the treatment of humans. Most people don't though, so he's not unusual. The protagonist, to his credit, does care about animals, which added greatly to the book for me. Other than my one quibble, I think Dave Eggers does an excellent job of keep his own personality out of Zeitoun's story, and of making a non-fiction book a gripping page-turner.
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poppel, January 4, 2011 (view all comments by poppel)
A must read! Eggers is a great writer.
For people who are not into non-fiction: this reads like fiction. Actually, you can't believe this is non-fiction.
Read it and weep.
walkpdx, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by walkpdx)
Eggers manages to bring the heart-rending facts of post-Katrina New Orleans, and of government operations, and of the cultural bias American Muslims face - to the transcending question of what being human means. For the facts and point-of-view from a particular family in New Orleans, for the introspection this book invokes, followed by the inspiration to act wisely, I recommend this book as my favorite of the year.
tamaflip, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by tamaflip)
I'd heard good things about Zeitoun from people I trust but had no idea of the spell it would weave while I read. A loving family in New Orleans, working their way up, struggling, raising children, working hard, paying bills--and then Katrina hits and suddenly the only thing that matters is that Abdulrahman Zeitoun was not born in the United States. I couldn't put it down but I wanted so badly for it to end--it had to end, it could not go on. How could this happen?
Thought for sure it would win the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was shocked it didn't. This is the first book I've read by Eggers and I will absolutely read everything he's written.
by Timothy Egan, The New York Times Book Review,
"Imagine Charles Dickens, his sentimentality in check but his journalistic eyes wide open, roaming New Orleans after it was buried by Hurricane Katrina....Eggers' tone is pitch-perfect — suspense blended with just enough information to stoke reader outrage and what is likely to be a typical response: How could this happen in America?...It's the stuff of great narrative nonfiction....Fifty years from now, when people want to know what happened to this once-great city during a shameful episode of our history, they will still be talking about a family named Zeitoun."
by The Times-Picayune,
"[A] heartfelt book, so fierce in its fury, so beautiful in its richly nuanced, compassionate telling of an American tragedy, and finally, so sweetly, stubbornly hopeful."
by James Wolcott, Vanity Fair,
Zeitoun is a riveting, intimate, wide-scanning, disturbing, inspiring nonfiction account of a New Orleans married couple named Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun who were dragged through their own special branch of Kafkaesque (for once the adjective is unavoidable) hell after Hurricane Katrina....[It’s] unmistakably a narrative feat, slowly pulling the reader into the oncoming vortex without literary trickery or theatrical devices, reminiscent of Mailer's Executioner's Song but less craftily self-conscious in the exercise of its restraint. Humanistic, that is, in the highest, best, least boring sense of the word."
by The Miami Herald,
"A major achievement and [Eggers's] best book yet."
by Neil Steiberg, Chicago Sun-Times,
"Zeitoun offers a transformative experience to anyone open to it, for the simple reasons that it is not heavy-handed propaganda, not eat-your-peas social analysis, but an adventure story, a tale of suffering and redemption, almost biblical in its simplicity, the trials of a good man who believes in God and happens to have a canoe. Anyone who cares about America, where it is going and where it almost went, before it caught itself, will want to read this thrilling, heartbreaking, wonderful book."
by Dan Baum, San Francisco Chronicle,
"Which makes you angrier — the authorities' handling of Hurricane Katrina or the treatment of Arabs since Sept. 11, 2001? Can't make up your mind? Dave Eggers has the book for you....Zeitoun is a warm, exciting and entirely fresh way of experiencing Hurricane Katrina....Eggers makes this account completely new, and so infuriating I found myself panting with rage."
by O, The Oprah Magazine,
"A masterpiece of compassionate reporting about a shameful time in our history."
by Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly,
"Eggers's 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. And what they say about one man and the city he loves and calls home is unshakably poignant — but not without hope."
by Andrew O'Hehir, Salon,
"Zeitoun is a story about the Bush administration's two most egregious policy disasters — the War on Terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina — as they collide with each other and come crashing down on one family. Eggers tells the story entirely from the perspective of Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, although he says he has vigorously double-checked the facts and removed any inaccuracies from their accounts. At first, as a reader, I felt some resistance to this tactic — could the Zeitouns possibly be as wholesome and all-American as Eggers depicts them? — but the sheer momentum, emotional force and imagistic power of the narrative finally sweep such objections away."
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he 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. Eggers's riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun's roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.
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