2011 Summer Reading Assignment: zeitoun by dave eggers
This is the story of Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, New Orleans residents whose lives were irrevocably changed by Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, the Zeitouns were residents of New Orleans who had a busy family life, a booming construction and remodeling business, and a close circle of friends and family. In late August, it became clear that Hurricane Katrina was to be a dangerous storm, and so Zeitoun sent his wife and children out of New Orleans to stay with family; he remained to watch his home, properties, and business. After enduring Katrina's horrific force, Zeitoun found himself in a flooded nightmare called New Orleans. He dug out an old canoe and paddled around the flooded city for six days, rescuing neighbors and strangers, taking care of animals, and checking on his rental properties and his renters. Kathy remained in touch with him until one day in September when he stopped calling. Zeitoun's story from this point forward is a chilling account of what happens when ordinary Americans attempt to cope with a disaster in a community already divided along racial and economic lines, during a time when Americans were wary and sensitive to persons from other countries. Abdul and Kathy's story highlights the rights of detainees during mass disasters, Americans' views of American Muslims in a post-9/11 society, and how one special family has been able to forgive and move forward.
WHY and HOW did the College choose Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers?
The Common Summer Reading group comprised of students, staff, and faculty made this choice because this book will meet several goals of the First-Year Experience. First, our selection was guided by the fact that Hurricane Katrina is a salient and important part of the lives of students who will enter Catawba College in 2011. Students will remember images of Katrina, but may not know or remember much about life in New Orleans during and after the storm. This book will allow them to better understand the impact of both the storm and the attempts to control the storm damage on the social and economic lives of the citizens of New Orleans. Second, the book will introduce students to an American couple who are Muslims, which we anticipate may open dialog and interchange about Americans of various faiths in hopes that those who are different from us become more real as humans and less foreign.
Next "Zeitoun" will afford discussions of the impact of natural disasters on civil rights and liberties of Americans. We believe that "Zeitoun" will also allow our students to enjoy thoughtful conversations about our role as citizens and our obligations to our communities. Such discussions of community, as well as those focused on vocation and the idea that one person can make a large difference, harmonize with Lilly Center goals. Moreover, several ideas presented in "Zeitoun" can find root in themes of many first-year seminars that will be offered: heroism, the role of the media in our understanding of politics and culture, race and ethnicity, and propaganda. Finally, "Zeitoun" as the summer reading affords potential co-curricular fall activities for our students. There are several possible service projects for an array of nonprofit organizations (e.g. Rebuilding Together, the Green Project) designed to help rebuild New Orleans; each is under the auspices of the Zeitoun Foundation. Additionally, there are several persons involved in the Zeitoun Foundation who would be happy to come to Catawba to speak to our students, further engaging the class of 2015 in a common academic experience.
About the author: Dave Eggers won the American Book Award for "Zeitoun," and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for "What is the What." He is co-founder of the offbeat and well-respected independent book publisher McSweeney’s and he has also established 826 Valencia, a literacy project in California.