Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Zeitoun" pronounced Zay-toon

Image from Hurricane Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in  August 2005, I remember seeing many images like the one above, and I literally thought "This couldn't be happening in this country!"

I remember spending countless hours glued to the television feeling anger, disbelief, but mostly sad. I would look at the people who were hot, hungry and begging for help and silently cry.

I remember the racial tension in the air and feeling like lots of other people: The government was slow to respond because the people impacted by the storm were Black.

At the Advance Placement (AP) conference for people who teach high school AP classes, I was given a copy of a book titled Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Needing something to read, I decided to read this book. It is An Entertainment Weekly Book of the Decade, A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner, A New York Times Notable Book, and named One of the Best Books of the Year by The San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, and The Kansas City Star. It is also an American Book Award Winner. And it came with rave reviews from one of my favorite authors, Edwidge Danticat.

This book caused me to have a complete paradigm shift. The media is powerful, and most of the the people who were shown suffering during Hurricane Katrina were Black people, so I unconsciously thought that "The Katrina Situation" was "A Black Situation", but this book, Zeitoun, helped me to see that Katrina was "A People Situation."

When I first started reading this book, I assumed that the characters were Black. Even with a name like Abdulrahman Zeitoun, I still assumed that the characters were Black because of my unconscious thoughts. Once I discovered that the characters were not Black, I was disappointed and almost stopped reading the book. I thought: "The nerve of Dave Eggers to take a Black story and tell it from the point of view of a Syrian and a White lady." But, I overcame myself and continued to read this book, and I am so happy that I did.

Abdulrahman Zietoun in the New Orleans Greyhound bus station where he was held after ­being arrested. Photograph: Julie Dermansky/Polaris

Zeitoun is the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Muslim Syrian-American owner of a painting and contracting company in New Orleans and his wife Kathy, who is a White, Muslim woman from Baton Rogue, Louisiana. Abdulrahamn decided to stay in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and Kathy decided to evacuate with their four children.

Abdulrahman just happened to have a canoe and was able to rescue many people and help many animals. He felt like he was divinely left in New Orleans to help. However, everything changed when cops bursted into his house and took him to a Greyhound bus station that had been converted into a prison. (What really surprised me is how quickly New Orleans was able to build a makeshift prison that was stocked with food and water, and regular citizens were stuck on bridges for days.) Abdulrahman greatest fear happened, and this incident completely changed him!!!

Eggers gives details accounts of the experiences of Zeitoun and many other innocent people who were imprisoned for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This book is captivating and adds another story to the many stories that are already told about the horrible things that happened during Hurricane Katrina. It is a MUST READ!

The 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was August 29th, and I have not been watching much television, but I have not seen or heard any stories about the anniversary. Some people can forget, but others are left with the scars forever.

I am so grateful for authors who feel that everyday people's stories are worthy to be told.

Dave Eggers: Cute Right?


Anonymous said...

Wow, after reading this I was taken back to 2005 when the storm hit NO. I was floored by the devastation and how many PEOPLE as you and I both realized were affected. What broke my heart is how our country reacted to the devastation.

Let me please state that you cannot stop Mother Nature, however you can be a productive and yet responsible way in which you help you fellow man, come to the aid of a countrymen, simply be accountable.

I will never forget Katrina and it's devastation b/c it almost wiped out entire parishes, had body counts that were not properly accounted for (we still do not know till this day, people are still missing, no one cares. Why I ask? We know the answer, no one care about the poor and disenfranchised). The direction of the water flow in the levees that broke was changed to protect homes of the more affluent that lived on the river front. People in the bayous were never searched for. It pains me.

We called our Americans refugees on the news, local and national. What horror!!! When the anniversary of Katria comes around, there of those that get on telecast and say, let's get past it, let's just rebuild and forget it. Why is it that when there is something that Americans do to shame themselves, we want to forget it? I won't. I hope we learn from it. I will look for this book, I want to learn what happened to these PEOPLE, hear their account thier story b/c as Americans, they matter.

Thank you for this!

-Marisa E.

Carole said...

Good one, Jacqueline. So glad you linked it in. Cheers

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing your book.

Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved June Edition. I am in the list as #31.

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