Katrina’s Deep End
Zeitoun is a non-fiction novel about a remarkable man named Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his family. This novel is based on their experiences through Hurricane Katrina, one of the most destructive natural disasters in the history of the United States. Before reading this novel I did know a few things about Hurricane Katrina. I watched CNN for a while during this traumatic event and saw scenes that were very shocking to me. Sometimes I would helplessly watch people stranded on roofs trying to call out for help and at other times I people would be breaking into stores and stealing whatever they could get their hands on. It was as if I was watching people from a third world country, a place where there was anarchy and it really shocked me. Even though I saw people stealing things, I saw Americans come together to help out each other. However, after reading Zeitoun my view of Hurricane Katrina was completely changed.
Abdulrahman was a very interesting character. He cared for everyone, not just his family. He was the ideal citizen. I was actually inspired by what he accomplished during Hurricane Katrina. He was one of the true unsung heroes of the natural disaster. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “ A home was worth fighting for.” This is literally what Zeitoun did; he did everything possible to save his home. He helped so many people that were trapped in their homes, he even fed stray dogs everyday. This was something no one could see on TV because the media was too busy covering the crimes during Katrina.
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Another thing that surprised me was the fact that Katrina affected so many Muslims. Being a Muslim myself, I did not know that there were so many Muslims that were trapped in their homes because of the flooding. And Zeitoun himself being a Muslim inspired me even more. The book did a great job of revealing some of the stereotypes that Muslims face in the world today and clarifying them. It also introduced basic concepts of Islam that helped the readers understand what Islam really is and how similar it is to religions like Christianity and Judaism.
The American soldiers in this novel were sort of portrayed as the antagonists. They arrested Zeitoun and his friends, accusing them of stealing even though Zeitoun was on his property. This event showed a different side to what was Hurricane Katrina. They were taken to a greyhound station that was turned into a jail and were questioned about extreme topics such as Al-Qaeda. This was probably one of the most shocking parts of the book to me, how can one connect Hurricane Katrina to Al-Qaeda? The city was basically destroyed, what else could someone do to it? We were in America and I thought that people would at least be rational in situations like this. And this is a great example of how stereotypes about Muslims were brought up in the book. Later, Zeitoun and his friends were placed into very cramped and filthy jail cells. This showed how people were treated during this event and it was not fair since they were innocent and in fact were the ones saving other people’s lives.
But if we look at the other side of the coin we can see how it was not really the soldiers’ fault. Their job was to go to certain areas and arrest suspicious people that were reported to them. They assumed that they have had to do something bad in order for them to be arrested. And after they dropped them off to the Greyhound station, they had no idea what happened to the people. They did not even know about the jail cells that were built in a just a matter of days. So in a way the soldiers don’t seem like they are the antagonists, they were just part of a corrupt system that they were not aware of. Dave Eggers, the author of Zeitoun, did an excellent job at the end of the book to show that the American soldiers and officers should not be the one blamed for what had happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his family.
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This book really changed my perception of Hurricane Katrina. There were some positive aspects about it and there were some negative ones. But overall I learned something new about one of America’s worst natural disasters. This book was very inspirational and I usually do not like to read books, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.