Jim's Reviews > Zeitoun

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
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's review
Aug 01, 11

Read this book! You'll find yourself feeling outraged.

Abdulramen Zeitoun (pronounced Zay-toon) was born in Syria. After being a sailor he found himself in New Orleans where he became a painter, contractor, business owner and landlord. He married an American who had previously converted to Islam. He has his quirks but you'll find yourself admiring him and his wife Kathy.

His wife and kids flee New Orleans to avoid Hurricane Katrina but Zeitoun stays behind. Their house survived the hurricane with relatively minor damage but then the levees failed and flooded the area. He pitched a tent on the roof of his garage and paddled his canoe around rescuing people, feeding abandoned dogs and looking after various properties.

A group of armed men busted into one of his properties and arrested Zeitoun and 3 other men. They weren't given a chance to prove that he owned the property, to explain what they were doing or even to make a phone call. The people arresting him accused him of being a member of Al Qaeda.

He was taken to Camp Grayhound, a temporary prison erected at the bus/train station (think Guantanamo) before being transferred to a state prison. He was held for 23 days before he could make bond and be released. Meanwhile his wife and kids are in Phoenix and don't know if he's alive. Finally a missionary handing out Bibles in the state prison agrees to phone his wife and let her know where he was.

The worst abuses of post-9/11 America didn't just happen overseas, they happened in New Orleans when the whole system broke down. The interviews with some of the arresting officers reveal how normal people can abuse innocent people when fear and paranoia run rampant and no one steps back and asks questions.


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