English Benchmark Quarter #1

By Jalen C. Smith 10/31/12
Zeitoun Book Review

All Is Not Lost When You Have Determination        


Could you ever imagine losing everything that was important to you? Ever visualized being so close to death? It is hard to believe it, but some people have experienced those things. On August 23, 2005, America encountered one of it’s most devastating and deadliest hurricanes. One of the worst hurricanes America has faced was called Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina has impacted many innocent lives in a way that many people will never forget. Dave Eggers, the author of an award winning book entitled, Zeitoun, is a well known American author who wrote a memoir  about the dangerous experiences one individual faced during Hurricane Katrina. In his efforts in crafting such a life changing story, Eggers wanted to inform the readers that with hard work and determination people could make a difference in the eyes of danger.

The story Zeitoun is about a man named Abdulrahman Zeitoun. Abdulrahman Zeitoun is a middle aged Syrian American who is the father of four children. Zeitoun is a successful owner of a painting and contracting business. Because he wants the best for his family he values hard work. Zeitoun is married to a woman named, Kathy. Zeitoun and Kathy both went through numerous problems, racism being the main issue. Many Americans demonstrated prejudice acts towards the Zeitoun family all because of 9/11 considering their similar appearance to former terrorist. Despite all of the downfalls, his family manages to overcome these boundaries and carry on with their lives. Since the incident of 2001, Zeitoun has demonstrated great strength and determination for his life and the lives of others.

Two days before the storm arrived, thousands of people were already aware that the storm was coming. Many people were preparing to migrate away from the storm. However tensions arose in the Zeitoun household. Kathy decided to take the four children with her to Baton Rouge in order to get her and her children away from the storm. Kathy had persuaded her husband, Zeitoun, to come with them in order to get away from the terrible hurricane, but Zeitoun denied her requests and remained in Louisiana to keep watch over their home and business. Because Zeitoun was born in Jableh, Syria and worked as a sailor for most of his life, he believed that he could survive the tragic storm. At that time Zeitoun didn’t realize how dangerous it was. The next day Hurricane Katrina hit, tossing roofs off of houses and flooding many areas of Louisiana. Louisiana declared a state of emergency and that it was mandatory to evacuate the state.

Zeitoun realized that he was stuck in the worst hurricane of all time. He could no longer save the house from the forces of the hurricane because the repairs had become too expensive. Later, Zeitoun left his house and went out on a canoe to observe the effects of  Hurricane Katrina and to help other people in need. After seeing the impact, he had realized that his whole neighborhood was flooded in ten feet of water. Kathy heard on the news that the Coast Guards were making efforts toward Louisiana, bringing supplies to help people in need. The whole time Kathy was worried for her husband's safety. Kathy called Zeitoun and begged him to leave Louisiana, but Zeitoun once again denied her. Zeitoun declared that he had a mission to fulfill and that he wouldn’t leave Louisiana until he accomplished that mission.

Overtime Zeitoun made sure to call his wife daily to let her know what was going on. Later on in the story, six armed soldiers showed up at Zeitoun’s house.  At first Zeitoun thought that the soldiers were there to help him, but they actually threatened him with a gun.  After a few days goes past Zeitoun turns out missing and does not ever get in contact with his wife, Kathy. Kathy then believes that Zeitoun is dead and that he would not be coming back. This was very hard for her because she has mixed thoughts about her husband's whereabouts.

Shortly after this alarming event she received a phone call saying that her husband was arrested along with three other men. This was due to FEMA issues. Zeitoun was accused of being a possible terrorist in the United States. The men were held at a facility. This meant Zeitoun could not call his wife to let her know what had happened to him. Later in the story, Kathy found out where he was and bailed him out. After everything was resolved the whole family traveled back to Louisiana to help rebuild their home and community.

After reading this inspiring memoir I encourage other young readers to read this book. The book Zeitoun really touched my heart because it showed me that there are people in this world who are in need, but we as citizens don’t stop and take the time to help them. Instead we care mostly about ourselves and not others. When I think of what Zeitoun has done, knowing that he isn’t a US citizen, it really touched my heart and made me want to make a difference in this country. Zeitoun placed his life on the line for others. Not because he wanted to but it was because he cared. Despite losing everything in the storm he still made a difference in other people lives.