"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Audio books made long road trip bearable.

 Last Thursday my husband and I jumped in his sporty car to start a very, very long road trip. We headed South toward a destination near Yosemite National Park in California for a family reunion. It was a round-trip of over 1600 miles. It was a trip that seemed unbearable if not for the two audio books we brought along (and, of course, the wind in our hair and the sun on our skin.)

Heading South we listened to Zeitoun by Dave Eggers which was masterfully narrated by Firdous Bamji. Zeitoun is a nonfiction account of what happened to a family when they got caught in the double vortex of Hurricane Katrina and US War on Terror.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American, and his wife Kathy had a successful house-painting business in New Orleans when the city was hit by the deadly hurricane. Kathy and the children left the town ahead of the storm, but Zeitoun stayed behind to keep his eye on the house and his businesses. After the storm he spent a week canoeing around the city helping stranded citizens and feeding abandoned pets when he was surprisingly arrested as a looter but held as a terrorist. He was imprisoned for weeks without one telephone call or even knowing the charges against him. His wife had no idea where he was that whole time and feared that he had died.

As my husband and I listened we both sat with our mouths agape.  How could this happen in America? How could anyone who was wrongly arrested be held for so long without so much as a telephone call or an opportunity to meet with a lawyer? How could a storm and its devastation be equated with terrorism?

Tim Egan, of the New York Times, wrote an excellent review of the book on August 13, 2009. His review is just excellent, so I encourage you to follow the link and read it.  But here are a few of the highlights of it:

  • "Eggers, the boy wonder of good intentions, has given us 21st-­century Dickensian storytelling — which is to say, a character­-driven potboiler with a point. But here’s the real trick: He does it without any writerly triple-lutzes or winks of post­modern irony. There are no rants against President Bush, no cheap shots at the authorities who let this city drown."
  • “ 'This book does not attempt to be an all-encompassing book about New Orleans or Hurricane Katrina,' Eggers writes in his author’s note. Of course not. But my guess is, 50 years from now, when people want to know what happened to this once-great city during a shameful episode of our history, they will still be talking about a family named Zeitoun." -Quotes taken directly from the book review by Tim Egan in The Sunday New York Times, August 13, 2009.

Don and I both wondered why we hadn't heard more about the situation that happened to Zeitoun and many other Americans in New Orleans in 2005. We have now.  This is a must read for any one who cares about our rights as citizens and who is concerned that these rights need to be protected. In addition, it is always enjoyable to listen to a book with another person so that it can be discussed and dissected.  Even though we were horrified by the events reported in Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, we enjoyed the listening experience very much.

Our Northbound audiobook, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, will be the subject of tomorrow's blog post.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

4 / 20 books. 20% done!


  1. I thought Zeitoun was a really good book; Dave Eggers does a great job of making non-fiction very readable and novel-like. It also gave me a much better sense of what NO was like post-Katrina... not a pretty experience!

  2. I like how Eggers makes a hero out of someone who (for years now) steals from the local mosque, refuses to support his children in every fashion, and threatens to murder his daughters most every time he speaks to them.

    Dave Eggers must be a great man indeed.

    1. Anonymous, I thought long and hard before I allowed your comment to be published, but decided to do it so that I could address a few issues that you brought up in an effort to allow for some free discussion.

      But first let me say, I do not like the tone of your comment. It is really obvious that you are a bigot, which means that you are intolerant to any differing creed, belief, or opinion than your own. By hiding under the cloak of "anonymous" you think you've gotten away with a snarky comment, but you know who you are, and you know what you said and the tone you used is unkind.

      Secondly, it is obvious, if you read the book, that Zeitoun is no saint. Who is? I listened to a book on tape about his experience in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I wasn't doing a report on him. So when I recovered from the sarcastic/mean-spirited comment you made, I did a little research to check the validity of your statement and learned that you were correct in that Zeitoun was arrested for domestic violence in Janurary 2012, as reported by the Smoking Gun http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/zeitoun-domestic-battery-792315 and later discussed at the LA Times. I was only able to find reports of the domestic violence arrest, not the lack of child support/murder threats, or stealing from the mosque. Of course, this all happened long after the book was published so I am not sure why you are calling out Dave Eggers, the author. He didn't have anything to do with these events. Though the LA Times writer questions the role that writing a nonfiction piece about someone's life may have played a contributing role in the stress that this family is under. That is an interesting point, one that should be explored.

      Finally, I hope that readers of my blog do not think that I am anti-Muslim, or pro-Domestic Abuse because I published your comment. I blogged about a book that I very much enjoyed listening to. And now I have learned something new about the subject of that book. It is really a pity that things have turned out the way they have and I certainly hope that Kathy Zeitoun and her children are getting the help they need to stay safe.

  3. Anne -- Thanks for alerting me to your review and to this later family history, which sounds sad and complicated. Looks like I'll be doing some poking around on the internet before my book club meets to discuss the book next week!


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