Sunday, January 17, 2010

Disaster reading

As if you needed to read more about it.

He knew the conditions had begun to take a very real toll on his psyche…he had to watch, helpless, knowing how depraved it was---this was punishment…it diminished the humanity of them all. (Eggers 246)

I recently completed the book, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and have been reading it throughout this week.  The book reads like a work of great fiction, but is a work of non-fiction that tells the story of a Syrian-American who lives in New Orleans through the hurricane.  Although the book is written beautifully and is completely engrossing, its reality was sometimes difficult to swallow, especially with the disaster that struck Haiti this week.  There were far too many parallels, but because of this timing, I think the reality of disaster has been very alive in my thoughts.

In typically brilliant fashion, Dave Eggers brings the story of a Katrina survivor to the general public. He tells the story of a man who tries desperately to deal with the disaster by saving other people’s lives with an aluminum canoe and who is eventually arrested and trapped in the disparaging world of post-9/11 Homeland Security profiling and degeneration because of his background and beliefs. 

Abdulramen Zeitoun, the main character says these simple but profound words about recovery : Every person is stronger now.  Every person who was forgotten by God of country is now louder, more defiant.  They existed before and they exist again. (Eggers 334) truly illuminating thoughts after disaster.

Eggers is careful to tell only this man’s story and clarify that it is only one account from the many and it is not a general history of Katrina.  Although Timothy Egan from The New York Times Book Review said this about the book:

 Fifty years from now, when people want to know what happened to this once-great city during a shameful episode of our history, they will still be talking about a family named Zeitoun.

I highly recommend the book and Eggers’ other narrative non fiction, What is the What.

That brings me to Haiti.  I know that New Orleans was a great debacle in our nations history, and I fear for the recovery from the earthquake in Haiti.  I did not know that so much energy and funding in New Orleans went to the building of temporary prisons and the capture of innocent persons.  After reading this book, I want desperately to help the people of Haiti, but I also want to make sure that my donations go to a place they can help and contribute to aid and not destruction.  I encourage everyone to give what they can.  Here are some reputable sources:

The American Red Cross –a reputable and well established group.  Your money will go to volunteer food and medical support

Doctors Without Borders –an orginization dedicated to giving medical help to people in great need.  They are performing open-air surgeries on card tables and could use all the support they can get.

Yele Haiti –Wyclef Jean’s relief organization.  A general fund with direct impact.


  1. Wow...I will definitely check it out.

  2. Very interesting details you have noted , appreciate it for putting up.