Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I was moved by Egger's compassion, humor, and ability to translate the complex history and quirks of a troubled African country for Americans in his wonderful novel What is the What, so when I saw that he'd written a book about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, it went straight into my buy queue. Zeitoun is a real life account of the experiences of a guy-down-the-street, a Syrian-American businessman, who stays behind in a flooded New Orleans and travels around in a canoe, giving aid to stranded residents. After a few days, he's picked up by authorities for "looting" and thrown into a surreal, Kafka-esque nightmare of prison detention, where he is kept without charges, forbidden to contact his family, and treated by the guards as though he were a terrorist.
While Eggers devotes a few chapters to the damage wrought by the hurricane itself and to establishing Zeitoun as a good-hearted, generous family man who happens to be a Muslim, the clear heart of his book is his anger at the US goverment for its colossal mismanagement of the disaster and the post-9/11 paranoia that seems to justify all manner of senseless, arbitrary abuses by its security apparatus. It's unclear how much of Zeitoun's mistreatment had to do with his Arab background and how much was simply due to the callousness of a system in which no one considered it their job to tell a prisoner of the charges against him or grant him a phone call home, but, either way, the implications are troubling. By keeping Zeitoun's story so personal, easy to follow, and uneditorialized, Eggers succeeds in making the reader (at least this one) angry, too. Perhaps future schoolkids will read this book as a reminder of an unfortunate chapter in American history, or perhaps it's a preview of what's to come with the next Katrina or 9/11.
Outside of the chapters that deal with Zeitoun's incarceration, though, Egger's self-restraint works a little against the book's emotional impact. Zeitoun comes across as an admirable, likeable guy, but his life story reads a bit blandly. As might be expected for someone writing docu-lit with the subject's cooperation, Eggers treads lightly around the man and his family, which left me wishing for a little more of the fictional license that gave What is the What its connectness. Still, Egger's particular mix of thoughtfulness, humor, anger at injustice, and hope for a better world shine through, and Zeitoun is well worth reading for that.
This book felt like very different three stories in one, and I liked all three. The first is the story of Zeitoun, a man from Syria who finds a home in America. I liked hearing about what it was like being a Muslim in America. The second story deals with his ordeal in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Zeiloun remained in the city after sending his family away, trying to look after his clients (he's a landlord and contractor). This was a fascinating narrative. Zeitoun uses his canoe to assist many in that time of great need. The final segment is the story of this innocent man's arrest and the accusations of terrorism for being a Muslim and Syrian in a city when most had left. It puts a human face on the incompetence of the government in the aftermath of Katrina. Each of the stories engaged me equally. The performance was nothing special but did not hurt the telling of this very interesting story. I felt I learned a lot and enjoyed the experience immensely.
This account mainly belongs to Shoshana Cooper, but as Audible has forced us to combine our account with our Amazon account, it has placed my loving husband's name on my reviews.
I cannot believe this happened in America. The narration is a little weak and the story could be more fluid. However, this is a story that needed to be told and is so amazing that these flaws are almost forgotton.
This is an amazing story - a glimpse into just one family's experience in the aftermath of Katrina. It gave me a new appreciation for what the city of New Orleans and its citizens endured.
Unfortunately, the author must not have had an editor to help condense the first half of this book to one-third its length. But please, bear through the author's burden, as the second half of the book is what the story is all about. It is an American government outrage. Little was reported in the press about this aspect of Katrina, that the would-be rescuers spent time setting up and conducting a concentration camp rather than saving or helping storm victims.
Excellent story with a dream-like quality. And that it was a true story made it all the more interesting. I enjoyed the narration. Great voice!
Great story - regardless of your biases or political standings just to read the story gives you a look at how unfair life can be and how the governement can jst mess up sometimes. Great book moves along well and keeps you interetsted
This is an amazing job by Dave Eggers, sailing the waters of non-fiction by telling the story of this Syrian-American who became a hero for his community and a victim of his adoptive country. Eggers' account is both entertaining and inspiring, deeply moving and ultimately shocking when we see the kind of things he had to endure.
The narration of Firdous Barnji is simply perfect. Eggers and Barnji know how to tell a true story.
This was a very good book -- hard to believe that what happened to Zeitoun can really happen is this country, natural disaster or not. I didn't love the narrator but the book is well worth a listen.