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Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Vista Book Group - Zeitoun

The Vista Book Group met in August to discuss Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, winner of the American Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

This book tells the story of Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, a Muslim family living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Before the hurricane, the Zeitoun family was well established in their community. They had been running a successful painting business for years, working all over New Orleans on some of its grand historic homes. As the Katrina approached, Kathy decided to take the children to her family’s house in Baton Rouge, while Abdulrahman (or Zeitoun, as everyone called him) stayed in town to look after their property and work sites. What follows is a harrowing account of the hurricane and its aftermath. Zeitoun spends the days after the storm traveling the city in an old canoe helping neighbors escape, taking care of abandoned animals, and meeting up with friends who also decided to wait it out. However, things take a turn for the worse when the authorities, an amalgam of police and National Guardsmen, become suspicious of Zeitoun and his companions. Soon they are arrested and taken to a temporary jail set up at the city's Greyhound bus station, with no access to medical care or phone calls. As Zeitoun disappears into the chaos of New Orleans after the storm, Kathy becomes more and more frantic and desperate to find her husband.

Eggers' narrative nonfiction style of writing is compelling and very suspenseful. This book was generally enjoyed by the book group members, though there were some of us who couldn’t help but be skeptical of the account. Our suspicions were raised particularly in light of events that happened after Zeitoun's publication (see the article linked below for more information). Skepticism aside, Zeitoun made for a great discussion, especially about how a city in twenty-first century America could devolve into chaos so quickly, about the ability of people to govern effectively in a crisis, and the roles race and socioeconomic status played in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Some read-alikes/watch-alikes we came up with were:

1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose

Heart Like Water by Joshua Clark

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (DVD)

Hexing a Hurricane (DVD)

Please join us on Wednesday, September 25, from 6:00 to 7:30 when we will be discussing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. We will meet in Film and Sound, located on the first level of the Main Library. If you would like to pick up a copy of the book, please call 929-3400 or stop by the General Reference/Research Desk on the second level of the Main Library. We look forward to seeing you there.


Amazon Says: One year after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, director Spike Lee presents a four-hour, four-part chronicle recounting, through words and images, one of our country?s more...
Amazon Says: One year after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, director Spike Lee presents a four-hour, four-part chronicle recounting, through words and images, one of our country?s most profound natural disasters. In addition to revisiting the hours leading up to the arrival of Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane before it hit the coast of Louisiana, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts tells the personal stories of those who lived to tell about it, at the same time exploring the underbelly of a nation where the divide along race and class lines has never been more pronounced. less...
Amazon


Amazon Says: National Bestseller September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau f more...
Amazon Says: National Bestseller September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devestating personal tragedy. Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature. less...
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Amazon Says: The bestselling book that became the blockbuster film starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Diane Lane.In October 1991, three weather systems collided off the coast of more...
Amazon Says: The bestselling book that became the blockbuster film starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Diane Lane.In October 1991, three weather systems collided off the coast of Nova Scotia to create a storm of singular fury, boasting waves over one hundred feet high. Among its victims was the Gloucester, Massachusetts-based swordfishing boat the Andrea Gail, which vanished with all six crew members aboard. "Drifting down on swimmers is standard rescue procedure, but the seas are so violent that Buschor keeps getting flung out of reach. There are times when he's thirty feet higher than the men trying to rescue him. . . . [I]f the boat's not going to Buschor, Buschor's going to have to go to it. SWIM! they scream over the rail. SWIM! Buschor rips off his gloves and hood and starts swimming for his life." It was the storm of the century, boasting waves over one hundred feet high a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it "the perfect storm." When it struck in October 1991, there was virtually no warning. "She's comin' on, boys, and she's comin' on strong," radioed Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail off the coast of Nova Scotia, and soon afterward the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace. In a book taut with the fury of the elements, Sebastian Junger takes us deep into the heart of the storm, depicting with vivid detail the courage, terror, and awe that surface in such a gale. Junger illuminates a world of swordfishermen consumed by the dangerous but lucrative trade of offshore fishing, "a young man's game, a single man's game," and gives us a glimpse of their lives in the tough fishing port of Gloucester, Massachusetts; he recreates the last moments of the Andrea Gail crew and recounts the daring high-seas rescues that made heroes of some and victims of others; and he weaves together the history of the fishing industry, the science of storms, and the candid accounts of the people whose lives the storm touched, to produce a rich and informed narrative. The Perfect Storm is a real-life thriller that will leave readers with the taste of salt air on their tongues and a sense of terror of the deep. 8 pages of illustrations less...
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