Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The faith of Zeitoun

...what is building, and rebuilding and rebuilding again, but an act of faith? There is no faith like the faith of a builder of homes in coastal Louisiana. And there is no better way to prove to God and neighbor that you were there, that you are there, that you are human, than to build. Who could ever again deny he belonged here?

This is the assertion that I cannot get over, that haunts me as I try to assimilate Dave Egger's Zeitoun.

In all my voluminous reading, I've never encountered anything quite like this magical work of truthful non-fiction. Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his wife Kathy survived both Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent terrified security regime that brought terror to their home. They emerged ready to tell their tale. Eggers was there to hear and construct it for us to share. He is a novelist, writer, editor, publisher -- and on the strength of this volume, a most sensitive witness to the vagaries our fragile civilization.

The Zeitoun clan came out of a Syrian port and its trajectory seemed bound up with the sea. No wonder, somehow, that Abdulrahman came ashore and into married life in New Orleans.

Following Abdulrahman about the drowned city in the days after the storm, we learn that devastation can contain beauty. Following Kathy in exile from her husband and city after the storm, we learn that that the one who seems to escape can also suffer.

One myth that dies in this book: no one should assume that Muslims can't abide dogs.

I'm not going to tell more here. Just read it if you have not yet done so.
***
This volume is the focus of San Francisco's One City, One Book citywide literary event that urges residents to read the same book and discuss it together. Quite coincidentally, I've just read what everyone else, I hope, is reading.
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San Francisco bus shelter ad.

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