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A nonfiction account of one Syrian-American’s experiences in New Orleans during after Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the levees built to hold back the Atlantic Ocean, with the omniscient shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 hovering over the proceedings, Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun has received its share of reviews. There are always two or three particularly good places to look for analytical essays about newly-released books, and Zeitoun was no exception. Timothy Egan’s review for the Sunday New York Times Book Review is a logical place to start [“After the Deluge,” August 13, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/books/review/Egan-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0]. Egan’s very positive review of Egger’s account emphasizes the dispassionate approach the author took to examining the events surrounding the disaster, especially the administration of George W. Bush’s handling of the crisis, but there is no question that Eggers is indicting the U.S. Government for its failures not just with regard to its failure to respond to the impending disaster with the appropriate degree of urgency, but for its shortcomings in responding after the scale of the disaster was fully visible, and Egan’s review is sympathetic with that approach. In addition, Egan emphasizes the government’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks – in effect, the assault on civil liberties that accompanied the hysteria that followed those attacks – the story’s Arab American figure serves as a useful vehicle with which to condemn government policies that infringed constitutional rights.
Ordinarily, the New York Review of Books would be an obvious source of fine analytical discussion of Eggers’ book, but its archives include some of his other works, which reference Zeitoun, but no article specific to that book. Absent that option, an ideal source is the section of Mary Ruth Marotte and Glenn Jellenik, editors, study of the literature inspired by Hurricane Katrina, that focuses on Zeitoun [See Ten Years After Katrina: Critical Perspectives of the Storm’s Effect on American Culture and Identity, 2014, https://books.google.com/books?id=F54XBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA189&lpg=PA189&dq=new+york+review+of+books+and+zeitoun&source=bl&ots=VdfquUWZD9&sig=pw_fMzDf9lltU0wjucoJun6h4-Q&hl=en&sa=X&ei=AOnLVOSFBcOngwTBrIH4Cw&ved=0CE8Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=zeitoun&f=false]. Chapters Nine and Ten, by Christopher Lloyd and A.G. Keeble, respectively, offer deeply thoughtful assessments of Egger’s book. Lloyd’s essay, “Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun and Southern Biopolitics,” views the events through the prism of the American South’s history of racism, with the toll taken on African Americans the focus of discussion. Of particular note is Lloyd’s discussion of the racial, as well as economic, disparity among those residents of New Orleans who had been able to escape the deluge while poor blacks bore the brunt of the devastation. Keeble’s essay, “Katrina Time: An Aggregation of Political Rhetoric in Zeitoun,” focuses more on the counterterrorism theme of Eggers’ study and the role the central character’s ethnicity played in the narrative. Keeble takes a very critical approach to the government’s response to the events of 9/11, as does Egger, and examines that approach in the broader societal context.
These essays should provide a very good starting point for discussions of Zeitoun. In addition, a link to the eNotes essay on Eggers' book is provided below.
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