United Talent Agency

Elise Bellin, Librarian of the Islamic Resource Center, wrote this book review as part of an ongoing series that focuses on a range of books within the IRC collection as a service to the community.


by Dave Eggers, © 2009 ISBN: 9781934781630

For those of you that are old enough to remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005, you might remember the mayhem and heartache that went with the aftermath of such a disaster. Respondents were, due to confusing orders, poor training, faulty information and disorganization, often more of a hindrance and agents of chaos than they were agents of help.

Prisoners weren’t evacuated but were trapped in a flooding prison with no electricity, food or fresh water, many dying; people were denied access to basic supplies and not enough were put aside for their use; fraud and abuse ran rampant; in short, Katrina wasn’t the only disaster to hit New Orleans.

Into this mix we find Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun and their daughters, Muslim Americans who made their home in New Orleans, LA. When Kathy and their children left their home for Baton Rouge at the approach of Hurricane Katrina, Abdulrahman stayed behind to watch over their properties, determined to wait out Katrina. They did live in an area that got hurricanes yearly. How bad could it be?

This book, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, tells the story of Abdulrahman and what he went through in this storm. It tells of the rising waters, abandoned dogs, rescued neighbors, random looting and bigotry observed by Mr. Zeitoun in his struggle to survive one of the most horrific natural disasters this century has given us so far.

In this book, Abdulrahman recalls being accused of being a terrorist for no other reason than him remaining behind like thousands of other residents. It is a book that will leave you staggering by the implications. We could all learn something from this book, particularly seeing the best and the worst of humanity in a disaster. Hopefully, we have learned from this experience as we watch desperate citizens in the Carolinas being evacuated in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

Founded in 2010, the Islamic Resource Center (IRC) is the first Islamic public lending library in Wisconsin. The IRC aims to provide resources to educators, students, health professionals, interfaith groups, and any members of the Milwaukee community that want an accurate understanding of the Islamic faith, its practices, and its people.