Karen's Reviews > Zeitoun

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
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Jul 18, 11

bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in July, 2011

I was one of hundreds (thousands?) of eager college students who trekked down to NOLA during Spring Break 2006 to help with Katrina relief. We spent long, hot days in the wrecked homes of the Lower 9th, suited up in bio-hazard suits and masks. We pulled rotted drywall and insulation out of the homes in a vain attempt to make them usable again. We spent our nights in sleeping bags in an abandoned elementary school.

I wish I could say that I felt really accomplished during that time, or that I felt like I helped get a displaced resident back into his or her home. The truth is that we were told repeatedly, by volunteers and residents alike, that this work was in vain. The city was going to condemn and bulldoze these homes, regardless of whatever deal was struck between the homeowners and the nonprofit that was organizing cleanup efforts. And why were we wasting our time pulling down drywall in a long-abandoned house when there were still people who needed clothing, food, and medical attention all over the city? Furthermore, Katrina had struck 8 months ago. Why are college students still here cleaning up? Why are people still homeless and hungry? Where's FEMA? From where I stood, it didn't look like anyone would ever come to live in the Lower 9th again.

ZEITOUN brings the reader back to August 2005, following a Muslim-American family during the immediate aftermath of the storm. The husband chooses to stay behind while his family evacuates, and from his experience Eggers provides a breathtaking account of the devastation and maddening disorder that followed in the weeks after Katrina struck. Even if you do not have any personal connection to NOLA or its residents, I can't imagine that the described rampant mismanagement and lack of centralized leadership will get past you unnoticed. I experienced a lot of those old feelings of frustration coming back to me as I read this book. Highly recommended.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Petra X (new)

Petra X Its very cynical, perhaps even 1984ish, to have a lot of college students do something useless so that the gvt can employ cheap labour and say it is 'doing something'. The volunteers get the reward of 'feeling good' but what kind of pay off is that in such a disaster.


message 2: by Reese (new)

Reese As we both know, you're much less likely to give five stars than I am. So I'm delighted that this book merited five stars from you.

I'll offer praise for your review and leave the proofreading to M.A.


message 3: by Karen (last edited Jul 20, 2011 06:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karen "I'll offer praise for your review and leave the proofreading to M.A."

I'll take the praise, and am now considering an addition to our wedding vows: "I promise to never correct your grammar or proofread your writing unless you ask me to."


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