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Trying to Read "Zeitoun"
Published on December 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about reading the Dave Eggers nonfiction book "Zeitoun" in light of disturbing allegations against the protagonist of his story. 

Here's an excerpt:

"When it comes to reading, a friend of mine adheres to a 50-page rule: If the book fails to engage her within the first 50 pages, she puts it down and moves on to something else. This is a good philosophy, but I take pretty much the opposite tact: I finish every book I start, even books I hate. For me, reading is a real commitment. However, I am now faced with the difficult choice of whether to quit reading a book. And it’s not because the book is poorly written, or lacks a compelling story. It’s because the writer, Dave Eggers, appears to have gotten the story wrong, and I feel bamboozled.

Here’s the scenario: A few weeks ago, I picked up Eggers’ acclaimed 2009 book 'Zeitoun,' a non-fiction account of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a New Orleans resident who helped rescue flooded neighbors during Hurricane Katrina, and was then wrongly accused of terrorism and jailed for 23 days. (The Syrian-born Zeitoun is an American citizen; his wife, Kathy, is a Louisiana native and Muslim convert.)

I’m not that far into the book, but here’s what I’ve learned so far: Zeitoun is a devoted husband, father and small business owner, a calm and thoughtful man who treats his workers well and is loved and admired by all who know him. However, recent reports suggest that Zeitoun is a much more sinister character. On Nov. 8, a grand jury indicted Zeitoun for allegedly trying to kill his ex-wife — the couple is now divorced — and ordering a hit on her from behind bars. During the summer, Zeitoun was charged with beating his wife and striking her with a tire iron.

Zeitoun’s troubles were reported earlier this year, but I missed those reports. Instead, I learned of them over the weekend, when I stumbled across an LA Review of Books essay (click here) by Victoria Patterson that asks, 'Did Dave Eggers Get ‘Zeitoun’ Wrong?'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

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