Daily Archives: October 16, 2009

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun is the scary and unfortunately true story of a New Orleans family during the Katrina hurricane — and the scary parts are not the wind, the flooding, or even the dead bodies floating on the water. Actually, when the father of the family, a painting contractor, having decided to stay in New Orleans while his wife and four children flee to stay with her family in Baton Rouge, does very well throughout the hurricane itself and even the flood. He’s very resourceful: he patches up his roof and windows, relocated all the furniture he can to the second floor, and uses his kayak to move around, check on his customers’ houses and his rental apartments, and saves a few people and dogs while he’s at it.

So what’s so scary? Well, half-way through the book he is arrested at gun point, along with a friend and two of his tenants, right in his tenant’s apartment and taken into custody where they are all treated in an unusually brutal manner and without the normal process of, for instance, being able to make a phone call, leaving his wife deathly worried for his safety during the many days of his incarceration (many of those days taking place outside of New Orleans, in a completely dry place that would, presumably, host many telephones). Moreover, unfortunately for him, he happens to be Syrian-born and his captors quickly conclude that he must be Al Qaeda, since everyone knows that Al Qaeda would pick a local US disaster to act. He eventually is freed and reunited with his family, but never receives any kind of apology, let alone compensation for his misadventures.

Well worth reading for a “grassroot” (water level?) view of Katrina as well as the real disasters created by the obsessional war on terror.

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