I recently finished reading Dave Egger's masterpiece, ZEITOUN, which accomplished what no other work of fiction or nonfiction has done in years, brought me to tears. It's the point of literature--isn't it?-- to move us to a deeper sense of our own humanity. Sometimes that aim is easy to forget.
ZEITOUN is about the horrors experienced by a Muslim family, particularly the husband and father, in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. It was a story I could not put down. Carefully written, each word carved with compassion and clarity, ZEITOUN lays bare the grotesque bureaucratic monster that made this tragedy so much worse and epitomized on so many levels what was wrong with our country at that time--when Bush 2 was still in power and many Americans had not yet realized natural disasters are the order of the day not the rarity of tomorrow.
ZEITOUN also lays bare our prejudices and small mindedness, humbling the reader when it comes to her understanding of what the right thing to do might be in times of natural disaster or emergency. Reading this narrative, one quickly comes to realize the survivor of disasters is not so much one who is smart or physically adept as one who is morally strong and wise. Disasters put our bodies, minds and moral fibers to the test. ZEITOUN is the story of a modern hero who epitomizes moral courage and stamina and stops at nothing to preserve the life of his family and community. It is relentlessly gripping and both devastating and uplifting.