The story begins in the summer of 2005. Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun and their four children live in New Orleans. Syrian-born Zeitoun and his wife own a busy and well-known painting company. When they begin to hear warnings for a massive hurricane heading their way, they don’t think much of it. After all, this happens every year. As the warnings become more dire, however, Kathy decides to take the family north, out of danger. Zeitoun decides to stay behind, to watch over the houses under construction. What begins as a small storm turns into a nightmare when the levee is breaks and the city is filled with water. At first Zeitoun is glad to have stayed behind; he moves their valuables out of harm’s way and rescues those stranded in his secondhand canoe. One day, Zeitoun and three other men are taken away. What follows is a horrifying series of events where the men are imprisoned, exposed to inhuman treatment, with no way to contact loved ones. The most appalling part is that this actually happened. In America. In the 21st century.
Zeitoun is a powerful work of narrative non-fiction. I couldn’t put it down. At the time, I didn’t really follow what was going on; it was hard to know what to believe in the media reports. Reading this made me realize just how awful the situation in New Orleans was. Zeitoun’s story is shocking. Highly recommended- prepare to be blown away.