Monday, January 3, 2011

Title: Zeitoun
Author: Dave Eggers
Pages: 335
Genre: Narrative Non-Fiction
Publisher: McSweeney's Publishing
Release date: July 15, 2009

Though I had been intrigued by this book for some time, I admit I was was in the consensus of some other readers and bloggers who were hesitant for fears of what it would contain. First of all, it took me a good minute, before deciding if I wanted to read it, to figure out if it was fiction or non-fiction (it's non-fiction, but narrative in style). I was afraid it would be too heart wrenching or distressing for me to read about the tragedy that befell the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And I was also afraid it would be fraught with too much anti-establishmentarianism and that it would be too preachy in this manner that I would be turned off.

I wish I would have listened to the scores of bloggers who said it was none of this and to READ it because it was really good.... because they were right, of course! I didn't feel that it was any of those things that I mentioned. Zeitoun was a straightforward story, engagingly told, about the Zeitoun family and the events that took place following Hurricane Katrina. Sure, there were some parts that I felt sad, frustrated, or upset, but that's a given with the topic. But never once did I feel distressed, like I was being manipulated by the author in any way. I thought this was an authentic telling of what happened.

Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun and their four children are a Muslim American family who resided in New Orleans in August of 2005. They were fairly well off family with a succesful painting and contracting business, Zeitoun A. Painting Contractors, LLC. They were well-known and respected in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Abdulrahman (typically referred to by just his last name, Zeitoun), stayed behind to keep an eye on their home, their clients' homes, and their properties. Zeitoun is famous for riding around in his canoe in the water after the storm helping out stranded people and animals. But this book isn't so much about the actual storm itself but other events that took place that were connected to the storm occurring but weren't directly related. These other, horrid, acts against human rights somehow managed to elude my knowledge at the time. Maybe it's because around August of 2005 I didn't watch as much news as I do now. Who knows. But I am a little horrified that I was ignorant of these events. For those who aren't aware I don't want to "spoil" the story for you, but for those of you who do know, it had to do with the acts at "Camp Greyhound" and Hunt Correctional Center.

Combined with the the story of these specific events is woven in the story of Zeitoun's family and what it's like living as a Muslim in America. His wife, Kathy, is a Caucasian American and also has stories of discrimination she has endured. Though not preachy in any way, I managed to learn a lot about Islam through reading this book and feel I have even a better understanding of their religion (or it may just show how ignorant I've been of it until now).

The Zeitoun family is one I came to know and love through reading their story. They represent wonderful people who deserve the love around them, who do what they can to help others around them, and who also represent a great work ethic that is inspirational. They're a family I would love to know in real life and who will stay with me for a while. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has the slightest interest in it as well as those who aren't interested at all... ;) The writing is engaging, and despite some more difficult parts, it didn't stress me out the way I feared it would, but ultimately warmed my heart because of the people at the center of the story.


Helen's Book Blog said...

I am so glad to hear you liked this book, I just got it in our school library and was going to "steal" it before the students got to it :-)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This book sounds wonderful - I just love it when a book turns out to be so much more than what was initially thought! And I love a non-fiction novel written in that narrative style - so much more interesting!

What an honest review! I will definitely check this book out!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have seen so many good reviews of this, so I just put my name on the list for the library!

Trisha said...

Yet another to add to the wish list! I love the enthusiasm in this review.

Zibilee said...

I really want to read this book and have read several great reviews of it. It sounds like it has a very important story, and is told in a way that is not manipulative or trite. Frankly, I had been worried that it would be, because I kind of consider Eggers a bit of a showoff. Good to hear this one was such a good read!

GMR said...

Oh I remember seeing this one in the store....the cover caught my eye (unusual artwork and colors used). So glad to hear you enjoyed it...book's of this nature can be overlooked for exactly the reasons you listed. KUDOS for checking it out...and thanks for sharing!

Amy said...

I had no idea what this book was about until reading this great review of yours. Thank you for reading and reviewing Zeitoun because I've known learned this is another Dave Eggers book for me to read. It's amazing and horrifying what many people went through following Katrina. It embarasses and shames me.
I have "A Staggering Work.." here to read, which is a very different book than this one. Based on your interesting review which has really piqued my interest, I am listing Zeitoun close to the top of my TBR list!

~ Amy

Jenny said...

Helen: awesome, hehe! Can't wait to see what you think!

Natalie: Yes, I loved the style it was written in. =)

rhapsody: yay!! I look forward to your review. =)

Trisha: LOL. I really enjoyed reading this one.

Heather: LOL. I haven't read any of his books before so I really had no expectations.

GMR: I think the cover is interesting too, especially the way the hardcover is printed right on there instead of on a dust jacket.

Amy: I've never read any other of his books and have heard that the rest are very different!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Sometimes we look at a book and think of how it would be. Like a friend would say 'read and see'.

Kathmeista said...

Another book that's on my "GOTTA read this like, NOW" list. Great review, it's been the final catalyst I needed for me to get this book - just off to order it now!

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