Zeitoun is a true account of a family in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The protagonist, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, is a Syrian-American who stays behind to protect his home and successful painting and construction business while his wife and four children flee New Orleans.  Using his simple canoe, Zeitoun quickly becomes a hero by saving trapped neighbors and animals.  But sadly and before long, he is mistaken for a terrorist and subjected to a series of human rights violations.  The author, Dave Eggers, is committed to using oral histories to address human rights concerns, and this book is one in the Voice of Witness series.

Buy Zeitoun at a local book store! Shop at Barner Books or Inquiring Minds both on Church Street in New Paltz, or visit them via their websites.
Click here to read  Ann Hutton’s Almanac Weekly article on Zeitoun and One Book One New Paltz. 
Click here to view a list of copies of Zeitoun available to borrow in the Mid Hudson Library System.
Click here to view a list of copies of Zeitoun available to borrow at Sojourner Truth Library at SUNY New Paltz.

From The New Yorker

Through the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina, Eggers draws an indelible picture of Bush-era crisis management. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees. After the levees break, he uses a small canoe to rescue people, before being arrested by an armed squad and swept powerlessly into a vortex of bureaucratic brutality. When a guard accuses him of being a member of Al Qaeda, he sees that race and culture may explain his predicament. Eggers, compiling his account from interviews, sensibly resists rhetorical grandstanding, letting injustices speak for themselves. His skill is most evident in how closely he involves the reader in Zeitoun’s thoughts. Thrown into one of a series of wire cages, Zeitoun speculates, with a contractor’s practicality, that construction of his prison must have begun within a day or so of the hurricane.

Images of Katrina

As you read Zeitoun, you may enhance your experience by viewing the remarkable images of the disaster, featured in the websites below:

  • The New York Times has an interactive site that shows photos chronologically, day by day of the disaster:


  • The Ogden Museum mounted an exhibit of the best photojournalism of Katrina marking the fifth anniversary:


  • This site, from the University of Southern Mississippi, has a slideshow of kids’ art by young survivors:


The Elting Library will have a computer set up to view these websites, along with displays of art and photos relating to the themes in Zeitoun, beginning November 9. 


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