Tag Archives: Zeitoun

Book Club Reflection: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

24 Mar

Not surprisingly, my book club’s discussion of ‘Zeitoun’ was very tinged y the controversy surrounding the main subject and his family. It was good to talk about it with some other people but this was a delicate discussion to have so I didn’t take notes on all things that were said in an effort to keep this blog free from as much political discussion as possible. I apologize that this is short.A few people thought that Zeitoun’s story seemed a little unreal because of how kind he was portrayed and how extreme his treatment in the jail was. We liked that he cared for the dogs and the other people around him but in light of the news, we’re wondering if it’s true. The treatment he received in the Greyhound jail seemed very extreme and made us think about those detained at Guantanamo Bay. Is what they experienced normal of those held there? Why would the government or police think it was okay to treat people who were accused of looting the same as those accused of terroristic plots?

A few people thought that Zeitoun’s story seemed a little unreal because of how kind he was portrayed and how extreme his treatment in the jail was. We liked that he cared for the dogs and the other people around him but in light of the news, we’re wondering if it’s true. The treatment he received in the Greyhound jail seemed very extreme and made us think about those detained at Guantanamo Bay. Is what they experienced normal of those held there? Why would the government or police think it was okay to treat people who were accused of looting the same as those accused of terroristic plots?There were so many factors that made Katrina the disaster it was. A huge part of it was the levees breaking. Because the levees were known not to be strong enough to support the amount of water that a hurricane the size of Katrina could cause, was it a manmade disaster? There’s no arguing that nature took its turn first, but what about the aftermath? We argued that the work should have been

There were so many factors that made Katrina the disaster it was. A huge part of it was the levees breaking. Because the levees were known not to be strong enough to support the amount of water that a hurricane the size of Katrina could cause, was it a manmade disaster? There’s no arguing that nature took its turn first, but what about the aftermath? We argued that the work should have been done, but the $5 million price tag on the work was a deterrent that in hindsight seems cheap but at the time was too big to surmount. Any trees and hills that had been removed or flattened for city expansion could have stopped the erosion and expansion of the levee water, but it had been removed for city development. Sometimes nature has her own insurance policies that humans remove.The anecdotes about how FEMA and other government bodies seemed to provide no solid assistance were so frustrating. The novel seemed to tell us that the possibility of terrorism was more of a concern than helping those who were in need and could have benefited from public assistance. There was an impression that assistance was more

The anecdotes about how FEMA and other government bodies seemed to provide no solid assistance were so frustrating. The novel seemed to tell us that the possibility of terrorism was more of a concern than helping those who were in need and could have benefited from public assistance. There was an impression that assistance was more effective in other regions touched by the disaster than it was in New Orleans. Perhaps New Orleans was a problem so hard no one wanted to tackle it.We felt there were a lot of questions about Zeitoun’s co-captives that should have been raised. Why were Nassar and Todd held for so much longer than Zeitoun? If they’d

We felt there were a lot of questions about Zeitoun’s co-captives that should have been raised. Why were Nassar and Todd held for so much longer than Zeitoun? If they’d been brought in on similar charges, why were they not released at the same time Zeitoun got out? Why didn’t Zeitoun advocate for his friends? We can understand not sticking up for the unknown Ronnie, but Todd was a long-time border and Nassar a friend. Why would they be left for five and six months in conditions that Zeitoun knew were inhumane? It seemed fishy.Zeitoun was a very self-dependent person. It didn’t surprise us that he didn’t leave New Orleans with his livelihood staying in the city. He wanted to be around the things that kept him dependent. He had grown up in his oldest brother’s shadow and wanted to be a hero the way Mohammed was a hero to their small town in Syria.

Zeitoun was a very self-dependent person. It didn’t surprise us that he didn’t leave New Orleans with his livelihood staying in the city. He wanted to be around the things that kept him dependent. He had grown up in his oldest brother’s shadow and wanted to be a hero the way Mohammed was a hero to their small town in Syria.Now we turn to the part of the discussion that was tinged with the recent news. When we thought about it, Kathy’s voice seemed to be withheld. It seemed more like Zeitoun speaking through her than a separate and distinct voice. We also noticed a few things that stuck out in light of the news. She seemed to jump to the conclusion that her husband had died very quickly. When he’s stuck in an area where there are no working phones and conditions are changing by the minute, you have to expect that there might not be any news for days or weeks at a time. She seemed to think he was dead quickly. Was it wishful thinking? Her memory loss might have other origins than PTSD in light of the trial. If he wasn’t afraid to beat her with a tire iron in public, what kind of head trauma might she have suffered behind closed doors? It might be memories of Katrina or maybe memories of being hit by her husband.

Now we turn to the part of the discussion that was tinged with the recent news. When we thought about it, Kathy’s voice seemed to be withheld. It seemed more like Zeitoun speaking through her than a separate and distinct voice. We also noticed a few things that stuck out in light of the news. She seemed to jump to the conclusion that her husband had died very quickly. When he’s stuck in an area where there are no working phones and conditions are changing by the minute, you have to expect that there might not be any news for days or weeks at a time. She seemed to think he was dead quickly. Was it wishful thinking? Her memory loss might have other origins than PTSD in light of the trial. If he wasn’t afraid to beat her with a tire iron in public, what kind of head trauma might she have suffered behind closed doors? It might be memories of Katrina or maybe memories of being hit by her husband.I was personally upset that Kathy’s family couldn’t accept her religion and her conversion. She

I was personally upset that Kathy’s family couldn’t accept her religion and her conversion. She chose to become a Muslim before she even met Zeitoun so their insistence that her hijab was something Abdulrahman made her do was ridiculous to me. Their comments that she could take it off because ‘he wasn’t there’ make me wonder if they saw it as an oppression of her religion or her husband and if they could draw a difference between the two. I also wonder if they knew about the abuse and correlated Islam and spousal abuse, making it harder to accept their daughter in a hijab. Either way, it upset me that they didn’t love everything about her, even the parts that were different from themselves.

We wondered why Kathy would stay quiet about being beaten. Being thrust into the public spotlight would give her the opportunity to stick up for herself and get help, but she remained silent. There was some debate among us about how Eggers might have conducted his relationship with the Zeitouns. Did he know about the abuse and take it out of his book? Did the Zeitouns insist it was removed when they read his drafts? It seems that he gave them a lot of control over the content and we wondered how much was removed by the Zeitouns, how much was removed by Eggers, and how much was never written in the first place.

One member said, “I feel like someone told me there wasn’t a Santa Clause’ when we told her the news. It’s very jarring to hear about a character who was portrayed in such a good light. If the part of the book about his suffering in prison is true, how do we feel about it? Is it karma that he suffered there if he was a wife beater? Did he deserve it? Let me know what you think

This was a very controversal novel and made for a good discussion, but not of the content in the book. I enjoyed the book a lot but I’m not sure that this is the best book for book clubs to discussion in light of the news that came out after it’s acclaim. Great choice for our edgy book club, but maybe not for a more traditional group.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-March-2015

11 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading, and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently reading:  I’m still working on my resolution to read a book in Spanish and I’ve picked La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I have a plan to get to it, but haven’t reached that point yet. As I say every week, it should be soon!
I’m working on my new eBook, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Not a lot of progress this week, just breakfasts and waiting at the chiropractor. Ho hum.
Atomic CityI’m reading a physical copy of The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. I’m making the majority of my movement here and I’m clipping along at a good pace. I hope to finish this week and get back to Sombra.
The audiobook on my phone is Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell. The narrator’s voice is still a little bit grating, but I’m really enjoying the story so far and I’m looking forward to being with this one for a long time because it’s 17 hours! Yep, a whopper.
I began the audiobook of The Round House by Louise Erdrich. This is my book club’s next selection and I’m excited about it. It’s been recommended to me several times and I missed the meeting where my other book club met to talk about it.

Recently finished: After all the progress last week, I’ve got nothing this week. I guess that’s the way this reading stuff goes. Oh well.

Two book reviews since last week! I reviewed Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley. Both were quality reads.

Reading Next: I’m still waiting to read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Yes, this has been here forever, but it’s the only upcoming book on my radar and I’m not sure when it’s going to get here. I plan to spend my time getting back to Sombra and making movement on that one.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (5/5)

5 Mar

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it and I was blown away. Eggers has done this to me twice now and I expect nothing less from any of his future books that I read. I didn’t know anything about Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his family. I hadn’t heard about the controversy surrounding him. (side note: as of writing this, I haven’t looked it up yet. I’ll look it up and give you all a LIVE reaction to it. Get excited.) I visited New Orleans in February 2015, about six months after Katrina so I have my own feelings about the tragedy and the city but I hadn’t heard about a lot of the things this book covered. It was a great read.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Summary from Goodreads:

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.

I was not ready for this book. I try not to look too much into books before reading them if I can help it; I like a surprise. So I knew nothing about this book besides what I knew about the author from reading What Is the What? and A Hologram for the King. I knew it was about Katrina. Other than that, I was ignorant. Wow. I’m always surprised by a well-written non-fiction story and this was no exception. I haven’t done this in a while, but I highly recommend this book.

Kathy and Abdulraham were very well written. I liked the back-and-forth between their points of view and how Eggers used this to tell a story. I liked both of them as they were portrayed in the book. Kathy and Abdulrahman both had to face society’s view of them in different ways and tried to remain strong in the face of it which I thought was admirable.

Kathy was my favorite of the two. I liked her story and journey to Islam. I thought it was very brave of her to make such a drastic change in her life and I’m glad it gave her peace. I thought her relationship with Yuko was beautiful and it made me want a friend as close to me as Kathy was to her friend.

The reason I went to New Orleans in February of 2006 was because a friend of mine lived down there and invited me to spend my mid-Winter break with is family. They had been evacuated from the Tulane Hospital complex in the aftermath and had been re-located to New York for a few months where they lived with family. The family returned around the new year to see the damage to their house and the restoration that would be needed. In the mean time, they were living in an apartment close to down-town.

Having seen my friend’s house and heard his story, this book touched me in several ways. I couldn’t help thinking of my friend and the state of his house when we visited. There was a water line at my shoulder level and all of their possessions were piled in the hallway of the second floor of their house. Thinking of someone, like Zeitoun, living on that second floor and being trapped in the house is easy for  me to imagine and frightening. I’ve seen the damage and have an idea of the destruction that New Orleans residents faced, but I can’t imagine living through it.

I liked the stories of Zeitoun in his canoe. I thought the things he did were very admirable and maybe it was God’s will that he stay and help those he was able to assist. In light of what was going on with the military personnel around him, it’s a good thing he could do the good he did from his silent canoe.

I thought the book took a really serious turn in the second half. More than the story, the tone seemed to become very cynical and scathing as well. It seems appropriate, but was a little jarring. I understand that the characters were upset about what was going on and the author is outraged at the happenings, but as a reader it took me out of the story a little bit.

Abdulrahman and Kathy have a story of persistence and perseverance. They faced a lot of hardships from numerous fronts and still remained hopeful. They kept it together for their kids and tried to find a positive way out of the tragedies that piled up against them. It’s a story of strong wills.

Ok, as promised, I’m going to go look up the controversy around this book for a second and give you all my initial and unfiltered reaction.

Wow. If you want to learn what I just did, you can watch this video, and read both of these two articles. This is really hard to believe. The two seemed to have such a loving relationship in the book so hearing that it turned abusive and violent after the story is hard to hear. It seems to fit with the PTSD Kathy suffered through toward the end. Perhaps Abdulrahman’s change of behavior is due to something similar. He seemed oddly unaffected to me in the later parts of the book. I hope that Kathy is able to maintain her safety and that of her children with the threats placed upon her by her ex-husband.

Dave Eggers Image via Amazon.com

Dave Eggers
Image via Amazon.com

Dave Eggers is not in an interesting situation. He’s painted Zeitoun as a hero in a very well-received and publicized novel. Where does he go from here? Does he renounce his hero or defend him despite the evidence? I think Eggers silence is probably for the best. This is a quandary fiction authors can thankfully avoid!

Writer’s Takeaway: I love a well-written non-fiction and I think Eggers does that beautifully here. Using dialogue, even if it’s not 100% accurate, helps an account greatly. I liked the pictures that were woven in and the emails for Ahmed. Anything that makes the story seem less like a history textbook and more like a storyteller talking is great. I’m still in awe of Eggers abilities as a writer. I will be for a long time to come.

Great book and one I highly recommend. Five out of five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
“Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers | Melody and Words

WWW Wednesday, 25-February-2015

25 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading, and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently reading:  Again, no movement on The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. It’s been a long time on this one and my husband and I have talked about finishing it separately because we haven’t had a lot of car rides together. I think I might take it on after I finish Ptolemy Grey. Hopefully that can be soon.
SombraOne of my resolutions this year was to read a book in Spanish and I’ve picked La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I’ve gotten through a bit of this one this week, but not too much. It’s what I pick up between other books. I’ll get it by the end of the year.
I’m working on my new eBook, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I’ve made better progress than I expected on this one, it’s really interesting. I’ve heard the series is really long and I’m not sure if I’ll finish all of them, but I’m enjoying this first installment.
My audiobook is The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley. I’m liking the story more as I go. It was hard to follow at first but I’m getting better at figuring it out and I like a lot of the characters. It’s not going to end well, but I still like the journey.
My book club met Monday and I got our next title, The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. I’m not too far in it yet, but the topic seems really interesting and I’m excited to read more. Come back Friday for a preview.

ZeitounRecently finished: I sped through Zeitoun by Dave Eggers last week. The story was really interesting and I’m still a little nervous to look into the recent news about Zeitoun. I want to like him and I heard the news will change my mind.

I got through two book reviews last week. The first was The Diviners by Libba Bray which I really enjoyed. I’ll look forward to the next installment of the series. The second was Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. Our book club discussion on that title was this past Monday so I’ll have a book club reflection up soon.

White TigerReading Next: The girls at work and I are going to be reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga soon. I’ll be getting it a few weeks and I’ll have to squeeze it in between book club books but I’m determined to get it in. It sounds like a good one.

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 18-February-2015

18 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading, and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Sun Also RisesCurrently reading:  No movement on The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. We had house guests this weekend so the hubby and I didn’t have much lone driving time. I’m antsy to finish this so I hope to soon. I think we only have one disk left!
One of my resolutions this year was to read a book in Spanish and I’ve picked La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I might have read five pages, so slow-going is an understatement here. It’s a good story, I just don’t have the time to really devote to the book and get through it.
I’m working on my new eBook, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I’ve read four chapters so it’s slow, but the book’s keeping my interest well. I’ll be interested to see how the movie adaptation is because this one is quite religious and I’m not sure they’d keep that for a mass-release movie but I hope they kept to the book.
My book club book for March is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I’ve read two Eggers books before and loved both of them. I really like this one so far and I’m reading it faster than expected. I’ve heard that there’s some controversy about the main subject, but I’m avoiding it until I finish the book and can form my own opinions.
My new audiobook is The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley. The book is mostly written from the point of view of a man with dementia so it’s a bit hard to follow at times but it’s really interesting to follow his train of thought. I’ll have to see how I feel when I get farther into this one.

EleanorRecently finished:I finished Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell on audio. I LOVED IT but had a problem with the ending (typical Rowell reaction from me). I’ll go over it in my review so look forward to that one.

I’ve published two reviews, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, which was Read Along #3. Look for Read-Along #4, probably in March or April!

Atomic CityReading Next:  On Monday I’ll get my next book club selection, The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. We usually do one non-fiction every six months and this one looks like a great choice!

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Friday Book Memes, 6-February-2015

13 Feb

Welcome to the ‘too much snow’ edition of Book Beginnings and The Friday 56 hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda on Freda’s Voice. Head on over there and check out the other participating blogs.

This week I’ll be featuring my new book club selection, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I only got it on Wednesday night and I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m a big Eggers fan.

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Book Beginnings is all about that very important opening sentence (or two) that us writers are always worrying about! Here’s the opening scene from Zeitoun:

On moonless nights the men and boys of Jableh, a dusty fishing town on the coast of Syria, would gather their lanterns and set out on their quiet boats.

I think it’s interesting Eggers chooses to open the book in Syria because besides this opening scene and one or two flashbacks, the book takes place in New Orleans. Perhaps I’ll figure it out as I go.

Friday 56

The way this meme works is pretty simple. If you want to join in, head over to Freda’s blog and add your link.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book (I grab the one I’m currently reading)
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.

I haven’t gotten to page 56 yet, so we’ll see what I learn from this quote.

Ten thousand cars, twenty thousand lights, she guessed, extending all the way to Baton Rouge.

Phew, didn’t learn anything new. This is a scene as Kathy, the main character’s wife, takes her family out of New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approaches. I remember the images of this exodus and I think this sentence gives a great visual of what it would be like to be a part of that crowd.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-February-2015

11 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading, and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  No movement on The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. It’s hard being so close to the end but not moving forward. I hope I can keep pushing this one soon.
One of my resolutions this year was to read a book in Spanish and I’ve picked La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I was able to get through a bit this week, but nothing to be proud of. This one will be here for a while.
I started a new audiobook that I’m really enjoying, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I read another of Rowell’s books at the end of last year and really enjoyed it. She has such a natural flow with characters and this is no exception. I’m really liking it.
I got a new eBook, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. This one is slow so far and that’s how I usually am with eBooks so no surprise. I saw that this was made into a Nick Cage movie recently so I’ll have to compare the two once I finish it.

Recently finished: The snowfall of finished books continues! I finished the audiobook of The Diviners by Libba Bray last Wednesday. I almost changed my post but decided to keep it for this week. Woo hoo!
Thursday night I finished The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera for Read Along #3. My post will probably go up next week to finish off the discussion. I’ll be starting up another Read Along soon so stay tuned for that! I’d love to have you all join in.
I finished Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat early this week. It was a lot faster of a read than I thought it would be and I enjoyed it a lot.

One review finished this week as well. You can read my review of California by Eden Lepucki but I’ll warn you, I wasn’t a fan.

Reading Next:  I’ll be going to my book club tonight and our next book is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I’ve read two Eggers books before and really enjoyed them so I’m excited to start this one tonight!

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Spread the word, WWW Wednesday is back!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!