Zeitoun

A New York Times Bestseller

Winner of the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest

One of the 2009 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

A 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction

A 2010 Guardian Best Book of the Year for Nonfiction

A 2009 Huffington Post Best Book for Nonfiction

A 2009 Chicago Tribune Book of the Year for Nonfiction

A 2009 Kansas City Star Top 100 Book for Nonfiction

An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Decade

A 2009 ALA Notable Book Finalist for Nonfiction

In his new nonfiction book ZeitounNew York Times bestselling author Dave Eggers tells a Hurricane Katrina story unlike any written before.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun—a prosperous Syrian American and father of four—chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the eerie days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing out supplies and rescuing those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared.

Eggers’ riveting work, three years in the making, follows Zeitoun back to his childhood in Syria and around the world during his years as a sailor. The book also traces the story of Zeitoun’s wife Kathy—a boisterous southerner who converted to Islam—and their wonderful, funny, devoted family. When Zeitoun vanishes, Kathy is left to make sense of the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible.

Editorial Reviews

Zeitoun is a poignant, haunting, ethereal story about New Orleans in peril. Eggers has bottled up the feeling of post-Katrina despair better than anyone else. This is a simple, beautiful book with a lingering radiance.

Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author

“Eggers…has given us twenty-first century Dickensian storytelling—which is to say, a character-driven potboiler with a point. But here’s the real trick: He does it without any writerly triple-lutzes or winks of post­modern irony. There are no rants against President Bush, no cheap shots at the authorities who let this city drown. He does it the old-fashioned way: with show-not-tell prose, in the most restrained of voices.”

New York Times

Zeitoun is an unusual book. It’s not a big-screen picture of New Orleans in crisis. It’s a portrait of one man—a patriotic and deeply religious immigrant—caught in the nightmare created by a natural catastrophe, exacerbated by government incompetence...An original look at a terrible time in America.”

USA Today

“Distills the sprawling chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina into a single family’s story...[Eggers] brings a novelist’s eye to the tale.”

Wall Street Journal

Zeitoun is a warm, exciting, and entirely fresh way of experiencing Hurricane Katrina...Eggers makes this account completely new, and so infuriating that I found myself panting with rage.”

San Francisco Chronicle

Zeitoun offers a transformative experience to anyone open to it, for the simple reasons that it is not heavy-handed propaganda, not eat-your-peas social analysis but an adventure story, a tale of suffering and redemption, almost biblical in its simplicity, the trials of a good man who believes in God and happens to have a canoe. Anyone who cares about America...will want to read this thrilling, heartbreaking, wonderful book.”

Chicago Sun-Times

“Eggers uses techniques of imaginative nonfiction to great effectiveness. The devices always remain in the service of the dramatic rendering of Zeitoun’s impossible situation.”

Huffington Post

“A new book by one of America’s most celebrated novelists has helped to turn Abdulrahman Zeitoun...into an improbable symbol of noble citizenship in the face of government ignominy. [An] epic story of ruthlessly punished good intentions.”

Sunday Times (London)

Zeitoun...is an examination of America in the time of Katrina, an indictment of bureaucracy, a testimony to the possibility of goodness, a level-headed look at Muslim America, a heartbreaking rap sheet for the Bush years, all this and more...I was completely enthralled by this book.”

Guardian (London)

“Brings together the archetypal absurdities of the Bush era, the ‘War on Terror’ and the Katrina debacle, to tell a simple story, but one laced with political significance.”

Independent (London)

“[Eggers] has entered new literary territory with a thoroughly researched, completely factual account of one man’s struggles during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

Time

“Through the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina, Eggers draws an incredible picture of Bush-era crisis management.”

New Yorker

“Eggers’ sympathy for Zeitoun is as plain and real as his style in telling the man’s story. He doesn’t try to dazzle with heartbreaking pirouettes of staggering prose; he simply lets the surreal and tragic facts speak for themselves. And what they say about one man and the city he loves and calls home is unshakably poignant—but not without hope.”

Entertainment Weekly

“A masterpiece of compassionate reporting about a shameful time in our history.”

O, The Oprah Magazine

Zeitoun is a story about the Bush administration’s two most egregious policy disasters—the War on Terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina—as they collide with each other and come crashing down on one family. Eggers  tells the story entirely from the perspective of Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, although he says he has vigorously double-checked the facts and removed any inaccuracies from their accounts. At first, as a reader, I felt some resistance to this  tactic—could the Zeitouns possibly be as wholesome and all-American as Eggers depicts them?—but the sheer momentum, emotional force, and imagistic power of the narrative finally sweep such objections away.”

Salon

“Firdous Bamji retains a strikingly calm tone while describing these racial injustices and false accusations...Bamji remains quietly and smoothly factual, neutral yet warm. Another bone-chilling, and fresh, account of this most egregious domestic policy disaster.”

AudioFile

“Audie Award nominee Firdous Bamji conveys the sense of pending disaster, the fear, the distress, and the ultimate sense of relief Zeitoun must have felt upon his release. This Kafkaesque story is sure to shock, horrify, and outrage listeners...It should be required reading/listening to ensure that nothing like the events described here will ever be repeated.”

Library Journal (audio review)

Author Biography

Dave Eggers won the 2009 Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation. He is the author of What Is the What, among other books. He is the editor for McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house in San Francisco, and is the cofounder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth with locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, Ann Arbor, and Seattle. With his high school students he edits The Best American Nonrequired Reading, a yearly anthology, and with his brother Toph he cowrites the Haggis-on-Whey series of semi-informative books, which includes Giraffes? Giraffes!, Animals of the Ocean (in Particular the Giant Squid), and Cold Fusion.

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Reader Biography

Firdous Bamji has appeared in numerous plays in New York and across the country and played the title role in William Shakespeare’s Othello. He has played leading parts in world and American premiere productions of plays by noted playwrights, including Tom Stoppard, Tony Kushner, Eric Bogosian, and Rebecca Gilman. He has also had guest starring parts on Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU, and he was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award as Best Supporting Actor for his work in the film The War Within.

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