By Dave Eggers

What It Is:

A non-fiction book about a Muslim family who lives in Louisiana around the time Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

Why I read it:

I have enjoyed previous books by Dave Eggers including A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and What is the What. I think he has an easy-to-read writing style.

What Surprised Me:

Social Justice anyone? I thought I was stepping away from social justice for a moment, but I never read the book’s description. I guess Mr. Eggers is a trusted author for me.

Is it Relevant:

The main character Zeitoun is of Muslim faith and from Syria. Of course this book was written in 2009, before we were blocking and terrified of Syrian immigrants or refugees. It is also before the upcoming elections showed our political candidates railing against Muslims and supporting increased policing and more treacherous acts that has revealed our true colors. So yeah, it’s still relevant.

What I took away:

I thought it was a wonderfully written story that taught me a few things I didn’t know about the Islamic faith. The book also helped deepen my compassion for the Muslim community in America and understand some of what they have suffered through and been subjected to over the last 15 years. Of course, this book was written before we were so concerned about Syrian refugees and our politicians wereIt shows another example of our country’s ineptness at crisis planning and skewed priorities, and those failures effected people of many different races and religions. I also liked how the visual depictions helped me imagine what New Orleans probably looked like in the aftermath of the Hurricane in contrast to what the media constantly depicted.

I recommend it:

This is not one of those books that is going to create radical social justice advocates, but it is a nice read and a good story. It will be time well spent and may give you pause to question your beliefs or assumptions about a few things. Warning, it may make you frustrated with the American government; if you weren’t already.

One Quote:

“Usually you needn’t risk so much to right a wrong. It’s not so complicated. It’s the opposite of complicated” (p319, Loc4106).

Update: 28-5-2016

I recently heard from a friend that Zeitoun had legal troubles after the book was published, possibly related to a domestic problem. I have not researched it. I do want to say that although the book is about his experience, to me it served more as a commentary about our government, our judicial system, and law enforcement. 

I think it is very unfortunate on the following levels:

  • For all parties involved as domestic situations which require police and legal adjudication are never positive.

  • That the injustices brought to light may be again swept away or ignored because of this situation.

  • That the publicity of this book may have brought this personal situation to a more public sphere.

  • That the more public sphere of the situation may negatively impact the business and livelihood of both parties involved.

These are just my thoughts, but know that I have done zero research into the matter. I enjoyed the book, and I did like the portrayal of Zeitoun in it. I feel no need to delve deeper into their personal lives to recommend the book. However, if you know more than I do and his character has been tarnished, starting the book with a dislike for the main character may decrease its appeal Or worse, you may feel how he was treated is more justified, and that simply is not the case. Or with his character in question you may not believe the story overall, which could be justified.