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Zeitoun [Hardcover]

Dave Eggers
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (577 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 15, 2009 1934781630 978-1934781630
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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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

Through the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina, Eggers draws an indelible picture of Bush-era crisis management. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees. After the levees break, he uses a small canoe to rescue people, before being arrested by an armed squad and swept powerlessly into a vortex of bureaucratic brutality. When a guard accuses him of being a member of Al Qaeda, he sees that race and culture may explain his predicament. Eggers, compiling his account from interviews, sensibly resists rhetorical grandstanding, letting injustices speak for themselves. His skill is most evident in how closely he involves the reader in Zeitoun’s thoughts. Thrown into one of a series of wire cages, Zeitoun speculates, with a contractor’s practicality, that construction of his prison must have begun within a day or so of the hurricane.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The New York Times Book Review called Zeitoun "the stuff of great narrative fiction," and critics agreed that Eggers tells Zeitoun's tragic story without the postmodern trickery and tirades he has exhibited in previous works. Instead, he allows the story to tell itself while imbuing Zeitoun's tragedy with deep sympathy and emotion. Although Eggers didn't witness Hurricane Katrina's devastation firsthand, he captures the experience through Zeitoun's eyes and approaches his subject very intimately. A few critics noted that while this perspective was convincing, it required "faith on the part of the reader that everything in the book happened as it appears here" (San Francisco Chronicle). But this was a minor complaint in an overall unforgettable story.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's (July 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934781630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934781630
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (577 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including "Zeitoun," a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and "What Is the What," a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine ("The Believer"), and "Wholphin," a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
377 of 398 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple Story, Simply Told, Simply Horrifying August 11, 2009
Format:Hardcover
First off, Zeitoun painted my house about 8 years ago so maybe I'm a little bit biased. I also think Dave Eggers is a great writer (doubly biased, perhaps). This story needs to be told to a large audience and Mr. Eggers is just the person to tell it. Maybe we can knock Eggers for the simplistic style he chose to write this book. On the other hand, this story frankly didn't need much artistic enhancement. It is shocking on its own accord and told in a very straightforward manner. Appropriate for the material, I believe.

Every American NEEDS to read this book. What we find in it is an America that lost its core. It is truly shocking that no matter how bad things were in New Orleans immediately following Katrina (most reporting was inaccurate and sensationalized), we are still Americans with common beliefs in our system of rights. That these rights were tossed out the window is appalling.

Mr. Zeitoun is a kind and gentle man. His signs are ubiquitous in New Orleans and he is a stranger to no one and well liked by all who have met him. That he could be mistreated is a crime and an outrage. That others were rounded up and treated even worse is one of the worst black eyes on our country. As I read this book I just kept saying out loud over and over again, "This cannot be America."
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223 of 243 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting July 26, 2009
Format:Hardcover
I had never read anything by Dave Eggers before, but his reputation set some pretty high expectations. I am a fan of narrative non-fiction and non-fiction, and enjoy books like "In Thin Air" or "The Colony." I picked up the book yesterday, and finished it this morning. It was spectacular.

The writing style is perfect. It is not over the top with descriptions, but still makes you feel as if you are there, canoeing along in the streets of New Orleans. The subject matter is interesting, not just in a "can't stop watching this train wreck" sort of way, but because it ties together Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, two of the largest national events of the last decade. I never thought or knew about much beyond what I saw on TV regarding Katrina. This book thoroughly explores one story of one family, but manages tell it from a perspective that everyone can understand.

Much like the book Three Cups of Tea brought attention to the plight of women in Pakistan, I hope that Zeitoun will bring to light the problems and issues that still need attention in the US and in New Orleans.

Eggers took the main event, Katrina, and by telling the Zietouns' story, made it of human scale.

I'm rambling--all I can say is, I think this book is worth a read for everyone. It isn't preachy-it is interesting. I learned a lot about many different subjects. I hope it ends up on the best seller list and stays there for a long time. Unlike some books that end up on the best seller lists, this one really deserves to be there.
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144 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beauty and horror August 1, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Zeitoun is a creampuff to read and then there is a huge lump in your stomach where the content boils. I finished it in a couple of days, finishing on a cross-country plane flight and got off in a furious mood that didn't wear off until the end of a hot bath and a tall cold rum drink. Massive injustice has been done in New Orleans and this book follows it right down to the foundations. You won't read another word about Katrina without finding your thoughts completely reoriented. Let's hear it for the truth.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The rule of law, suspended September 1, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Dave Eggers's account of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the first story in "Zeitoun," is immensely readable. However, there has been a lot of well-written reportage on the storm and the Bush administration's botched handling of the rescue efforts. What's extraordinary about "Zeitoun" is the second, intersecting story, Eggers's narrative of the arrest and imprisonment---without charge, without representation, without even the ability to make a phone call--of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Syrian immigrant, successful businessman, and American citizen. Incredibly, in "Zeitoun," the War on Terror merges with the Katrina disaster to produce a truly stunning example of what happens to xenophobia in the hands of petty officialdom.

I've read several novels in which writers as diverse as Andres Dubus II, Claire Messud, and, most recently, Lorrie Moore, attempt to incorporate the events of September 11, 2001. None of these writers is, to my mind, particularly convincing with this material. (Don DeLillo, in "Falling Man," comes closest, I think.) Eggers, on the other hand, a master of narrative nonfiction, simply (artfully) gets out of the way of his material, letting it speak for itself. And his depiction of the weeks after the storm, a period when Zeitoun's wife, Kathy, at first does not know whether he is dead or alive and then struggles with callous officials to free her unjustly detained husband, is powerful indeed. So too is the narrative thread that traces Zeitoun's family history. Most painful and revolting, however, are the scenes in the jail-cages of "Camp Greyhound," the temporary prison constructed outside the New Orleans bus station. As with the photos of Abu Ghraib, the emotion a reading of "Zeitoun" is mostly likely to evoke is shame.

M. Feldman
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Eggers is a genius
I've read a couple of Dave Egger's books and I believe he's one of America's best writers of the day. Read more
Published 5 days ago by R. S. Brandwayn
4.0 out of 5 stars Katrina from a different angle
An interesting other perspective of Katrina first hand.
Published 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Factual political expose
Didn't know I was starting a political expose when I got this book. People who live in the mainstream of life won't have these issues, but, as was said in the movie "Grand... Read more
Published 7 days ago by S. Austin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent thought-provoking book.
Published 11 days ago by Diane Dennis
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy read
Good book about Katrina/post Katrina New Orleans. Living in New Orleans this is unfortunately one of many stories of what went wrong and the personal toll it took out of many... Read more
Published 11 days ago by David J Fary
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good
Published 13 days ago by qiuyugong
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story of one family before, during and after Hurricane Katrina
I loved this book and this man and his family. I highly recommend it. It's a story that we didn't really hear about with all the media covering this tragic hurricane.
Published 13 days ago by dana
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Dave Eggers book
Eggers seldom disappoints me (although I have yet to figure out the purpose behind Hologram for a King). I think he's best on non-fiction. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Jeanne M. Mcdermott
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book on the Katrina tradegy
This is a very interesting book providing a lot of material that I don't remember seeing in the press. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Evergreen
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
Book was a very easy read that had enough material to keep you entertained throughout. Loved all the background information about the main characters as well as the look into a... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Alexander
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Topic From this Discussion
What happens to Zachary?
The fact that Zeitoun tried to hire a hitman to kill his wife and Zachary recently should shed light on that.
Oct 23, 2012 by Li Woo |  See all 2 posts
The truth of this man Be the first to reply
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