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Where's the truth in this creative nonfiction story?
on March 24, 2013
Dave Eggers begins with the caveat that this story is the story of the protagonist ("Zeitoun," his family name) and his wife, Kathy. However, given the list of sources he consulted (listed at the end of the book), it seems he intended the book to be nonfiction, i.e., factual. Yet, Eggers's "fiction radar" never went off during the first section of the book, where Zeitoun and Kathy tell a story of their nearly perfect life: a father with a very strong work ethic; parents devoted to each other and their children; a family devoted to living their peaceful Muslim religious beliefs; an "American" wife committed to the religion to which she converted (before meeting her husband). Is any family that "perfect"? Eggers apparently did not question this. He should have, even if he just confirmed all that the couple had mentioned. While it's not "fair" to the author to expect that he would have uncovered the spousal abuse and anger that we now know was occurring during the time described in the first section of the book, it still seems fair to expect of the author a more serious commitment to his investigative journalism responsibilities than what he demonstrated. Even teasing out somewhat harmless flaws in the couple's personalities, behaviors or relationship would have made the story more *interesting* and *credible*. There is much more to say, about the value to the reader of completing the book (with a critical eye). What happened during and after Katrina was a travesty to all people living in that area and to our entire nature. However, one has to wonder why Zeitoun ignored the plight of his "friends," whom he left behind in their prisoner-contructed outdoor prison after he was released with the actions taken by his lawyer and his wife after a comparatively short internment.