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378 of 399 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple Story, Simply Told, Simply Horrifying
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...
Published on August 11, 2009 by B. K. Davis

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Details that emerged later changed my view
I originally gave this book 3 1/2 stars. I thought it was flawed, but that it was important as a window into one family's experience of Katrina and its aftermath. I appreciated that parts of it were beautifully written, and that the book told readers what life was like at "Camp Greyhound," the temporary prison where Abdulrahman Zeitoun, among many others, was held without...
Published 20 months ago by Chicago Bookworm


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378 of 399 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple Story, Simply Told, Simply Horrifying, August 11, 2009
This review is from: Zeitoun (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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224 of 244 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, July 26, 2009
This review is from: Zeitoun (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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145 of 159 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beauty and horror, August 1, 2009
This review is from: Zeitoun (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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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The rule of law, suspended, September 1, 2009
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This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
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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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zeitoun: A Reflection On New Orleans and America, August 23, 2009
By 
This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
"Zeitoun" is an inspiring, tragic and powerful book that will endure decades from now about how America failed at helping New Orleans and the residents of the city during and after Hurricane Katrina. In a nonjudgmental and factual manner, the book recounts failed expectations and lack of accountability by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security in response to the devastation brought to the city by Katrina.

Author Dave Eggers, one of the important storytellers of our time, chronicles the true story of one man - Abdulrahman Zeitoun - a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four who chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business.

Zeitoun risks his own life daily by paddling through the city in a canoe in his attempt to save lives and help provide food and water to others, only to endure shameful, unjust and unaccountable torture at the hands of police and the military. The lasting harm done to Zeitoun, his American wife Kathy and their children continues even today, four years after the storm.

Eggers documents that Homeland Security, FEMA and the military sent troops to New Orleans not necessarily to assist in rescues but rather because of an unfounded and paranoid belief that terrorists might take advantage of the hurricane situation to cause further disruption. In the perverted and racist government process, Zeitoun is viewed not as a savior of the city but as the enemy.

While I suspect that the story of Zeitoun will further enhance Dave Eggers' well-deserved destiny as a meaningful voice in American nonfiction writing, I am most struck by the fact that all proceeds and royalties are going to the not-for-profit Zeitoun Foundation in New Orleans.

[...]
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a page turner with substance!, August 7, 2009
By 
Smokey Cormier (Oakland, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
I struggle all the time with "must" when it comes to giving advice to other people. Who am I to tell you what to do? Will you forgive me this one time? Because if you do, you will learn some important things by reading this book.

You MUST read Zeitoun. Especially if you live in one of those areas -- like I do -- that can be struck by a natural disaster. Most of us do now, don't you think? With global warming, there are more fierce hurricanes, more tornados. And just the other day I looked at an old National Geographic magazine's map of where earthquake areas are in the world -- there's a lot of them! And I live in the San Francisco Bay Area ... so we think about them all the time -- that is, when we're not in a state of denial.

You better hope hope hope and pray (if so inclined) that you are never in a natural disaster of huge proportions like the poor folks in New Orleans were! The natural disaster parts are bad enough ... but what is far worse is the army of "helpers" who come in later: National Guard, FEMA, law enforcement from other areas. That's when the real tragedy will happen. These people don't know you. They've been told to watch for looters. And like one of the quotes says in the front matter of this important book: To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Every person looks like a looter. Or a terrorist if you've got a Middle Eastern-sounding name.

That's what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun. At the time of Katrina, he was (and still is) a citizen and successful businessman in New Orleans. Think of it: you're well-known by your community and a successful businessman -- yet, after Katrina, you are thought of as a looter and terrorist. Without any proof. No evidence whatsoever. No hearing for weeks. No phone call. The phone call. It's that special part of the U.S. judicial system: the phone call. We're taught about this all the time as children: if you're arrested, you get a phone call. The worst serial killer gets a phone call.

Don't count on it after a disaster. In a disaster with our friends from FEMA in control you become one of the Disappeared -- and yes, they are the ones in control -- and now that they are a part of Homeland Security they have even more control and an even worse attitude -- to an employee from FEMA, everyone looks like a looter and a terrorist.

And what about you, woman in your 70s -- do you really think your safe? Read about the tale of Merlene Maten. She was 73 and a diabetic. She and her husband had fled their home before the hurricane and checked into a downtown hotel thinking they would be safer there. After three days, Maten went down to their car in the parking lot next door to get some food they had in the car. She was arrested for looting. It made no sense! Yet she was arrested anyway. Folks, this is what is so striking when you read this book: the "helpers" -- law enforcement, National Guards or whatever -- do not listen to you if you are just regular folks. Remember, you're a nobody. They don't listen to your story ... they don't look at the real facts: you're 73 and diabetic and you're at *your* car getting food. They don't take the time to see if you really are checked into that hotel next door. They just arrest you.

You better hope hope hope and pray that a disaster doesn't head your way.

I want to thank Dave Eggers for writing this book -- and for all the important things he does with his abundant energy. Good stuff. Thanks. From deep down. I hadn't read any of his books before, glad I started with this one.

The writing is so very good too. The book is a page-turner. It's not depressing at all. The book has a main story -- the story about the Zeitouns -- plus lots of other very interesting stories. Although watch out! If you were mad about how folks in New Orleans were treated before -- WATCH OUT -- you're gonna be furious by the time you finish this book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life, Faith and Dangerous Waters, July 31, 2009
By 
K. L. Cotugno (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
As a writer, Dave Eggers has the ability to find the small story within the larger one, as exemplified by his "Voice of Witness" series, out of which arose this book. But no one else could have written this book -- his extraordinary skill as a writer coupled with his deep seated humanity and puckish humor have woven a story of courage and loyalty and love far beyond any other I've read, save for his own "What is the What," my favorite book of 2006. His befriending of his subjects results in epic volumes, that have effects far beyond the selling of books -- Foundations in this case, a School in the case of WITW. I don't say this often, but everyone should read this book.

Dave Eggers is unique. He is also supernatural -- how can so many hats be worn on just one head? And when does he have the time to accomplish all he does? At what was supposed to only be a book signing for
"Zeitoun" recently, he gave an impromptu speech about the family at its core and the events they endured during the horror of Katrina, before and after the Storm. He was generous with his time and information, without giving too much away about the story. He never gave the impression he had somewhere else to be, but as it was a noon signing, seemed more concerned about the attendees' need to return to work.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History on the personal level..., July 24, 2009
This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
Disclaimer: I am a big Dave Eggers. I don't think he is infallible, but I'm a fan.

I found this work of non-fiction to be riveting, honest, and gripping. When Katrina hit New Orleans, I was studying abroad, traveling through Italy and seeing the hurricane's aftermath called "Bush's Folly" on a number of Italian newspapers and periodicals. Zeitoun and Kathy's story is tragic and heart-wrenching, while proving, ultimately, hopeful.

To think of what the Zeitoun family, and countless other residents of the New Orleans area, went through in 2005 and in the months following is unfathomable. But Dave Eggers has written a frank, quite readable retelling of what happened a few short years ago.

I admire Eggers for his 826 literacy programs and social awareness, among other things, and for his commitment to help get the Zeitouns' story out there, so as to put a unique face to natural disaster of Katrina, and to the human disaster and American failures that followed, and in many ways continue to the present day.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Details that emerged later changed my view, March 12, 2013
This review is from: Zeitoun (Paperback)
I originally gave this book 3 1/2 stars. I thought it was flawed, but that it was important as a window into one family's experience of Katrina and its aftermath. I appreciated that parts of it were beautifully written, and that the book told readers what life was like at "Camp Greyhound," the temporary prison where Abdulrahman Zeitoun, among many others, was held without a phone call or humane treatment.

Now, however, I feel disappointed in Eggers as an author, because later events cast real doubt on his portrait of Abdulrahman Zeitoun. Zeitoun is portrayed as so noble that, even at the time of first reading the book, I wondered if Eggers wasn't airbrushing a bit. But now Zeitoun has been charged with ordering hits on his wife, Kathy, and her son by her first marriage. And Kathy Zeitoun has said she suffered abuse from Zeitoun for years, including the years Eggers is writing about here. (If you look up "Zeitoun update" online, you'll see what I mean.)

I believe in Egger's good intentions. I think he really wanted to tell a story that highlighted why the aftereffects of Katrina were so disastrous, how much of the government's response to the tragedy was misguided at best, and how Muslims in the U.S. can be unfairly stereotyped. And I'm willing to believe that Eggers was fooled by the Zeitouns -- that they didn't tell him everything about their marriage (who would?).

But did EVERYONE Eggers talked to have the same completely rosy view of the Zeitouns? Was there nothing, in all the time he spent working on the book, that raised his suspicions at all? He's a smart man, and I find that tough to believe. The degree of divergence between the nonviolent, completely loving and altruistic Abdulrahman Zeitoun and the man who would order hits on his family from prison is so huge that it made me wonder what else Eggers didn't see or averted his eyes from.

In my original review, I said I would have liked to hear more about the Zeitouns directly from their neighbors and friends in New Orleans. Eggers describes their work fixing up and renting houses, but we don't get many specifics about their friendships and business relationships. Now I find that missing dimension of the story yet more telling. More depth and breadth, more acknowledgement of complexity, would really have enriched this book, albeit at the cost of its being such a clear cut morality tale.

This book had the potential to be great, but I think Eggers wanted to keep it simple instead. Rather than dealing with shades of gray, he wanted to paint in black and white. And as I said, I think he did that with good intentions: he wanted people to be horrified by the way people were picked up during Katrina, held without proper communication or hearings, and kept in prison for weeks or months without redress. But he could have conveyed that horror without painting Zeitoun as a saint, and if he had done so, the book wouldn't look like an extended error of judgment on Eggers' part now.

In the introduction Eggers talks about how the Zeitouns went over the book repeatedly and suggested changes, and enthusiastically says they made it "better" each time. And in retrospect, I should have seen that as more of a red flag than I did. This is clearly the story as the Zeitouns, especially Abdulrahman Zeitoun, wanted it to be told. I wish Eggers had pushed back a bit, opened out the story, and recognized more ambiguities. Then it would have stood the test of time, as this book doesn't.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zeitoun - A Teacher's Review, October 6, 2010
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This review is from: Zeitoun (Paperback)
With the recent controversy over the Ground Zero Mosque, it is crucial that teachers incorporate literature into the curriculum that highlights the fact the Muslim religion is not equated with terrorism; terrorism is not a religion.

Eggers successfully documents the trauma of the Zeitoun family following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The novel is based on a series of in depth interviews of the Zeitoun family, friends, and relatives, as well as, other central figures who share Zeitoun's fate. About two thirds of the book is spent focusing on the bond between Zeitoun and his family, which extends to his community at large; a community that Zeitoun, even after Katrina, finds value in, from the disabled to the able-bodied, to the animals left behind. It is within this post-Katrina community, however, that Zeitoun is falsely accused, tortured, and degraded by the U.S. government because he is thought to be associated with terrorist activity. Although Zeitoun's imprisonment is one of the defining characteristics of the book, Eggers also touches upon what it means to be a Muslim woman in America today. Through Kathy, Zeitoun's wife who is an American woman that converted because she felt the religion gave her power and control over her own life, we learn that the hijab, which is often seen as a sign of suppression by a patriarchal culture, actually becomes one of liberation.

It is within the pages of Eggers narrative that educators will find the opportunity to teach students how to embrace and understand other cultures beyond what is reported by media outlets. By not including this book in our curriculum, or a work that confronts the same issue, we are doing our students a disservice, which will eventually become extensions of further ignorance and intolerance. Making students aware of how 9/11 has changed what it means to be American will only foster the knowledge of real situations, situations like Zeitouns that forever altered a man and his family; a situation that forever altered Americans.

An interesting aspect about this book is the title because Zeitoun represents the man, the family, as well as, the extended network of friends and relatives of Zeitoun's (the man) around the world. It may be an interesting aspect to bring up in class discussion after reading the book.

This book also contains a comprehensive list resources on rebuilding New Orleans, support for, and education about the Muslim community. Utilizing these sources in the classroom would be excellent an way to get students involved in the reality of the text they have just read.
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Zeitoun
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (Paperback - June 15, 2010)
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