Book Review: Zeitoun

9.3 of 10
by Dave Eggers
Buy Hardcover Edition from Amazon

Back in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, there were reports of chaos tearing the city apart. However, I couldn't help but think that some of these events were just exaggerated by the media. It was just too surreal to happen in the United States. That's why when I found out about Zeitoun, a non-fiction book about a man who tried to help storm survivors, I didn't had any second thoughts of getting it. I was hoping that the book would provide me with some clarity of what really happened inside ground zero of post-Katrina New Orleans. But what I found out was far more disturbing than what the news had delivered.

While the book did mention causalities caused by roving gangs and crazed snipers who were reveling in the lawlessness of the city, what Abdulrahman Zeitoun had to endure is far more worse than those. Zeitoun (as known by his friends and clients), a Syrian-born American and a well-known painting contractor in New Orleans, remained in the city during the storm to keep an eye on his properties. After the storm, he explored the flooded city with a canoe and managed to help a couple of people (and even abandoned dogs). But when he was about to leave the city, he was instead accused of being a member of Al Qaeda and was sent to a makeshift prison without access to a lawyer or even a single phone call.

Zeitoun is one of the books that I won't easily forget. The ordeals that Abdulrahman and his family have to go through, of being a victim of Hurricane Katrina and post-9/11 racial profiling, is just too gut-wrenching to cast aside. The book tells a very very tragic tale. But it will also open your eyes. It gave me a glimpse of how the government operates under a crisis such as Katrina's magnitude -that they would rather build prisons than shelters and assume that every survivor is a terrorist, all in the name of national security. It also reminds me, and solidifies the fact, that the Bush Administration really did fuck up. If you're looking for a great book to read, grab Zeitoun.

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