This is the best book I have read so far this year.
Eggers relates the true story of the Zeitoun (Zay-Toon) family and asserts that "dates, times, locations and other facts have been confirmed by independent sources and historical record". Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian Muslim living in New Orleans with his wife, Kathy and four children, is an well-known business man who owns a painting/contractor business. He's a hard worker and a family man. When it was announced that Katrina was headed straight for New Orleans and the governor declared an evacuation, Kathy and the children headed to Baton Rouge and Zeitoun stayed home, prepared to fix anything in the house as needed.
The family didn't expect such a catastrophe - I don't think many people did. After the hurricane passed Zeitoun used an old canoe he bought and searched for those in need of help; animals and people alike. Since many people who evacuated the city thought they were only going to be gone a day or two, there were a lot of pets left behind. Little did they know they wouldn't return for weeks. "It was one of the strangest aspects of this in-between time - after the storm but before anyone had returned to the city - the presence of these thousands of left-behind animals." Zeitoun believed that he had stayed in the city for a reason and did all he could to help anyone who needed it.
He set out alone for a while and before long, at the corner of Canal and Scott, he encountered a small boat. It was a military craft, with three men aboard: a soldier, a man with a video camera, and one holding a microphone and a notebook. They waved Zeitoun down and on of the men identified himself as a reporter. "What are you doing?" the reporter asked. "Just checking on friends' houses, trying to help," Zeitoun said. "Who are you working with?" the reporter asked. "Anybody," Zeitoun said. "I work with anybody."Not only does this book detail the horrible Katrina catastrophe, it also examines what it means to be a Muslim in America in the 21st century. For me, this book was a shocking reminder of what many of our citizens have to face simply because of their religion. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at the horrific behavior of the NOPD, FEMA, the National Guard, and the US government. With the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, this book really hit home. If you are interested in learning more about the disaster and the racial profiling that occurred as a result, I suggest you read this book. It's told in a very straightforward way and was all at once touching, heartbreaking and disturbing.
He was so content in this country, so impressed with and loving of its opportunities, but why then, sometimes, did Americans fall short of their best selves?If I could recommend everyone in America read one book this year, Zeitoun would be it.
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2009