Synopses & Reviews
This is a beautiful book. Zeitoun
is a poignant, haunting, ethereal story about New Orleans in peril. Eggers has bottled up the feeling of post- Katrina despair better than anyone else. This is a simple story with a lingering
radiance. My admiration for the humanist spirit of Eggers knows no bounds.”
Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Zeitoun is an American epic. The post-Katrina trials of Abdulrahman
Zeitoun would have baffled even Kafkas Joseph K. Though Zeitouns story could have been a source of cynicism or despair, Dave Eggerss clear and elegant prose manages to deftly capture many of the signature shortcomings of American life while holding onto the innate optimism and endless drive to more closely match our ideals that Zeitoun and his adopted land share. Juggling these contradictions, Eggers captures the puzzle of America.” Billy Sothern, author of Down in New Orleans
Zeitoun is a gripping and amazing story that highlights so much about the tragedy of Katrina, post-9/11 life for Arabs and Muslims, and the beautiful nature of American multi-cultural society.”
Yousef Munayyer, policy analyst, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
"Zeitoun is an instant American classic carved from fierce eloquence and a haunting moral sensibility. By wrestling with the demons of xenophobia and racial profiling that converged in the swirling vortex of Hurricane Katrina and post-9/11 America, Eggers lets loose the angels of wisdom and courage that hover over the lives of the beleaguered, but miraculously unbroken, Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun. This is a major work full of fire and wit by one of our most important writers."
Michael Eric Dyson, author of Come Hell or High Water
"This is a beautiful book. Zeitoun is a poignant, haunting, ethereal story about New Orleans in peril. Eggers has bottled up the feeling of post-Katrina despair better than anyone else. This is a simple story with a lingering radiance. My admiration for the humanist spirit of Eggers knows no bounds." Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
"Zeitoun is an American epic. The post-Katrina trials of Abdulrahman Zeitoun would have baffled even Kafka's Joseph K. Though Zeitoun's story could have been a source of cynicism or despair, Dave Eggers's clear and elegant prose manages to deftly capture many of the signature shortcomings of American life while holding onto the innate optimism and endless drive to more closely match our ideals that Zeitoun and his adopted land share. Juggling these contradictions, Eggers captures the puzzle of America." Billy Sothern, author of Down in New Orleans
"Zeitoun is a gripping and amazing story that highlights so much about the tragedy of Katrina, post-9/11 life for Arabs and Muslims, and the beautiful nature of American multi-cultural society." Yousef Munayyer, policy analyst, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
"Zeitoun is an instant American classic carved from fierce eloquence and a haunting moral sensibility. By wrestling with the demons of xenophobia and racial profiling that converged in the swirling vortex of Hurricane Katrina and post-9/11 America, Eggers lets loose the angels of wisdom and courage that hover over the lives of the beleaguered, but miraculously unbroken, Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun. This is a major work full of fire and wit by one of our most important writers." Michael Eric Dyson, author of Come Hell or High Water
Imagine Charles Dickens, his sentimentality in check but his journalistic eyes wide open, roaming New Orleans after it was buried by Hurricane Katrina.... Eggerss tone is pitch-perfectsuspense blended with just enough information to stoke reader outrage and what is likely to be a typical response: How could this happen in America?... Its 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.”
Timothy Egan, The New York Times Book Review
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.... [Its] unmistakably a narrative feat, slowly pulling the reader into the oncoming vortex without literary trickery or theatrical devices, reminiscent of Mailers Executioners 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.”
James Wolcott, Vanity Fair
A fiercely elegant and simply eloquent tale.... So fierce in its fury, so beautiful in its richly nuanced, compassionate telling of an American tragedy, and finally, so sweetly, stubbornly hopeful.”
Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune
In Zeitoun, [Eggers] tells a story made more upsetting by the fact that although it surpasses our worst nightmares, it is absolutely true. A major achievement and [Eggers] best book yet.”
Andrew Ervin, Miami Herald
Eggers' sympathy for Zeitoun is as plain and real as his style in telling the man's story. He doesnt 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 poignantbut not without hope.”
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
The book serves as a damning indictment of governmental and judicial failings in the wake of Katrinabut beyond that, it recounts a wrenching, human story of family, faith and, ultimately, hope. Dave Eggers is an important writer with a big heart, as conscientious as he is prolific. Whatever he does next, and however he does it, his work matters, and people should be listening.”
Pasha Malla, The Toronto Globe and Mail
Zeitoun is a story about the Bush administration's two most egregious policy disastersthe War on Terror and the response to Hurricane Katrinaas 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 tacticcould 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.”
Andrew OHehir, Salon
Which makes you angrierthe 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.”
Dan Baum, San Francisco Chronicle
I cant recommend this book highly enough. Not only was I completely immersed in the story, but its important that we learn about one of the most defining events in recent U.S. history. Also, I loved how Eggers goes back and forth from the present to the past with events that provide insight on the people he documents throughout his book. The reader learns about Zeitoun growing up in Syria and his life at sea, what led Kathy to Islam, how Zeitoun and Kathy met and got married, and a multitude of other events that truly define these people and make them easy to relate to, making their struggle our struggle, whether one is Muslim or not.”
Bushra Burney, Media and Islam
"Eggers does a masterful job weaving Zeitouns story together to show the multiple dimensions of his experienceZeitouns belief in Americas highest ideals and principles and shock at their violation, his love of his community, his familys fears and his current efforts to put this sad chapter behind him to focus on the real work at handrebuilding his home, New Orleans. This book and story will go down in history as many narratives do that recount incredibly transformative times in our nations history. What is so heartening is that Eggers avoids telling a 'Muslim' story and instead tells an important and rich American story through the experience of an exceptional American family that is Muslim, nothing more and nothing less."
Jordan Robinson, altmuslim
Eggers is a tremendously gifted writer of narrative nonfiction. So good, in fact, that his new work is the best book this reviewer has read so far this year.
Eggers' book is a marvel: simple yet moving and eloquent, gentle yet reaching deep to the heart of his very human story of one family, unflinching from tragedy but in the end, cautiously hopeful. There are other books that give a broader view of Katrina and its aftermathBreach of Faith by Jed Horne and The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley are especially goodbut Eggers' portrait of one American family's astounding experiences, of their own country after the storm, is no doubt the Katrina book people will be talking about years from now.”
"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."
Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times
I first read about Abdulrahman Zeitoun in a book of oral histories about Hurricane Katrina published by McSweeneys. Zeitoun, a Syrian American contractor survives Katrina, even manages to save some lives, only to fall victim to the trappings of the Bush-era Department of Homeland Security. Dave Eggers works some of the same magic here that made his novel/biography What
Is the What such a powerful read. Gripping, lyrical, and so real it makes
Edwidge Danticat, The Progressive
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.
Dave 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.
About the Author
Dave Eggers is the editor of McSweeney's and a cofounder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth, located in seven cities across the United States. He is the author of several books, including What Is the What and How We Are Hungry, and co-wrote the screenplay for the feature film Away We Go.