Zeitoun is a Dave Eggers book about a Syrian-born house painter and his family and their experience with Hurricane Katrina. It’s a nonfiction book, told as a story. There are flashbacks to how Abdulrahman and his wife Kathy met, and stories of his older brother who was a long-distance swimmer, but most of the story is about how Zeitoun stayed in New Orleans and took his canoe around helping people and was thrown into Camp Greyhound and then prison for his trouble.
I haven’t immersed myself in a lot of the post-Katrina story of New Orleans, so while I knew that there was a lot of terrible stuff that happened, I didn’t know about the Guantanamo-esque prison camp that they built while people were trapped in houses and the water rose.
It’s not the kind of book that would make you feel much sympathy for anyone in charge of any kind of bureaucracy ever, but it seems to be a really good story about what being Muslim in 21st-century America is like.
I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t really like Eggers’ writing style. It seemed too basic and earnest. Which is fine, this isn’t a story you really want to be injecting a lot of ironic distance into, but I just didn’t like the writing very much.
I waited a goodly while to read Little Brother, Cory Doctorow’s Hugo-nominated YA book from last year. More because of the YA-ishness, and also because I understand the political things the book is getting at and don’t need them fed to me in the form of fiction. But. I’m going to be the Teen specialist when I go back to the branch (word on the street is that will be no earlier than February 20th) so I figure I should read some YA books. I guess. The good thing is that Little Brother is pretty good.
There’s a terrorist attack in San Francisco and then the Department of Homeland Security comes in to quash the terrorists by quashing civil liberties and the right to privacy and all that. They set up a secret Gitmo-on-the-Bay where enemy combatants are held without trial. The hero of the story is a 17-year-old who gets caught up in the DHS security net and designs ways to fight back against it. Along the way there are authority figures who try to argue all is good in the name of security, a little bit of teen sex, adventure, waterboarding and manipulated newsmedia.
What it isn’t is subtle. The bad guys are very very bad, be they severe haircut lady from DHS or the vice-principal and his bully-snitch. I hated them. Immensely. It was weird how much of a reaction I had to the casual destruction of privacy and freedom to say stuff. It made my body angry. As I was reading I was flooded with these adrenalin surges when people said their War on Terror equivalents of Freedom is Slavery. So on that level (of pushing my buttons) the book worked. On most levels, really.
Somehow I doubt I’ll be able to get all the girls in the Teen Book Club to read it though.