Sunday, October 17, 2010

RACH Students Read and Review Dave Egger's Zeitoun (see previous post for background)

Michigan State University and East Lansing
One Book/One Community Project

Assignment Completed

Professor Skeen and MSU students of RCAH:  

I’m happy to post your fifty-word reviews here for all to enjoy. My review of your work, you may notice, is also limited to fifty. Am I becoming a fifty-phile, a bit obsessive with the miniature review? There are worse things, surely. I hope each of you will discover many literary fascinations and follow them.

When reviewers must limit themselves to fifty words is that blessing or curse? Struggle or piece-of- cake? Students, most of you chose carefully, others rushed the assignment, breezing to fifty ASAP. Notably, Pappalardo, Molnar, Speigel found evocative language to capture the tensions, tembre/tone and moral cautions implicit in Zeitoun’s Katrina. Jane Vincent Taylor

 Grace Pappalardo
Accustomed to mending things with a hammer and nails, Muslim contractor Zeitoun is challenged with the monumental task of repairing his life after Hurricane Katrina strikes. Armed only with a canoe and a passion for humanity, he braves both the detriments of natural disaster and those of America’s racist past.

WIDK(words I didn’t know): attrition, gregarious, derrick

Quote: “It was the very nature of this small, silent craft that allowed them to hear the quietest cries. The canoe was good, the silence was crucial.”

Allie Speigel

Its eerie, dreamlike cover speaks for the contents. Follow Abdulrahman and family through Hurricane Katrina, their eye-opening story of perseverance interlaced with Qur’an verses and intensely personal, involved family history. Alone in the semi-deserted city, he experiences tremendous human strengths and failings. Shows what fear, disaster, stress do. Humbling, heart-breaking.

WIDK: Bycatch

Quote: “He always remembered this dolphin, a magnificent ivory-white animal shining on the dock like porcelain. The fishermen nudged it with their feet, but it was dead. It had gotten caught in the net and, unable to reach the surface to breathe, it had died underwater. If they had noticed it in time, they could have freed it, but now all they could do was throw it back into the Mediterranean. It would be a meal for the bottom feeders.”

Natalie Molnar

Zeitoun chronicles the attempts of one family to pick up the pieces Hurricane Katrina left. Those pieces had once formed a collage of days spent painting homes for fickle clients, the scowls of strangers at the signt of a hajib, and, throughout the devastation, liltingly lyrical excerpts from the Quran.

Alyssa Sprague

A quick and fast-paced read, Zeitoun describes a resilient family struggling with the aftershocks of Hurricane Katrina. Provides a raw, unbiased account. Tackles a variety of prejudices. Unnerving yet hopeful. The characters? selfless acts remind us of the value of community. Offers hope for New Orleans and America.

WIDK: symbiosis, technophile, abaya, hubris

Quote: "Anything could happen. Anything had happened."

Laurie Hollinger

This story of the Zeitoun family’s experience of Hurricane Katrina, told with a journalist’s balanced spin, exposes events largely hidden from the media. A must read for believers that martial law couldn’t possibly occur in the good ol’ USA, and for professed patriots adamant that Muslims can’t be “real Americans.”

Quote “Everything happens for a reason,” he tells them. “You do your duty, you do what’s right, and the rest is in God’s hands.”

Lauren Hall

Gripping, powerful, and inspiring; Zeitoun simultaneously embodies the best and worst in human nature. One man, one family, and one city transform as the chaotic ocean spreads love, humanity, and honor with fear and misconceptions. When waves recede, destruction rages. What can we do? As Zeitoun says, "build, build, build."

WIDK: crux, idyllic, dissonance

Quote: "Without someone guiding us, wouldn’t the stars and the moon fall to earth, wouldn’t the oceans overrun the land? Any vessel, any carrier of humans, needs a captain, yes?"

Arielle LaBrecque

David Eggers' attempt to portray life of the Zeitoun family in the aftermath of Katrina would better serve as a journalism piece. Undeniably informative, yet lackluster detail and minimal characterization leaves reader dissatisfied; the book's controversial topics and characters are not nearly as deep as the waters of New Orleans.

Quote: "This has been the pattern of his life: ludicrous dreams followed by hours and days and years of work then a reality surpassing his wildest hopes and expectations."

Mallory Deacon

A gripping memoir of the man/family Zeitoun during Katrina. A story of stubborn compassion and the adage, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Graphic depictions of citizens’ survival and captivity send warnings of Islamophobia and racism. Appalling incarcerations make you feel anger, disbelief, compassion, respect. It makes you want to revolt.

Quote: “If he was innocent, then I feel very bad…Here’s the bottom line: I wouldn’t want something like that to happen to me personally.” –Officer Ralph Gonzales

Abby Schottenfels

Zeitoun, written by Dave Eggers, is a story of particular bravery. The author presents Zeitoun as a hero, but also a human. While reading this you see one man's reaction to a tragedy, and his family's reaction to that. Best read all at once. Recommended to those who desire hope.

Jessica Bluhm

Captivating account of one family during Hurricane Katrina. Zeitoun is a suspenseful and yet hopeful page-turner. Experience the overwhelming power of love, faith, tragedy, and triumph. A juxtaposition of modern prejudice and the American dream exposes this country’s false assumptions of equality. Gives new meaning to “One nation, under God”.

Quote: “Be strong, be brave, be true. Endure.”

Hallie LeBlanc de Smith

Katrina’s horrifying aftermath is revealed through the survival story of a Muslim American family. Expect to be overwhelmed with emotions— fear, pain, sorrow, stress, anger, relief and joy-- of the Zeitoun family. A painful realization of police brutality, lack of control and racism in the face of a national disaster.

WIDK: ubiquitous, wuduu, salaat, nepotism

Quote: “When a crime is committed by a Christian, do they mention his religion?...A white man robs a convenience store and do we hear he’s of Scottish decent? In no other instance is the ancestry mentioned."

Andrew Smith

Dave Eggers' Zeitoun isn't a pretty story. His account of a Muslim-American family dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina certainly isn't a tragedy, either. Sweet remembrances of family and small heroics drift by as we learn a bit too much about our country and those supposed to protect it.Patricia Miller/town

Patricia Miller, a member of the One Book/One Community annual writing workshops, contributed this 50 word book review of Zeitoun.

An engaging, touching, horrifying account of a Muslim family following Hurricane Katrina. The natural and political worlds collide in a violent zigzag between horror and beauty, devotion to duty and city, and personal degradation beyond American experience. Riveting action and pride in family, religion, and place illuminate this tragic story.

Thanks to all of you who participated.
Good Luck and Good Reading!

See below for an overview of the Residential College.

The Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) at Michigan State University is a unique undergraduate degree program for students interested in literature, history, ethics, the visual and performing arts, and the study of languages and cultures. RCAH students chart their own paths within a flexible program that encourages individual expression, exploration, and achievement. They meet and learn from some of the world’s leading writers, artists, and performers. They live and learn together in Snyder-Phillips Hall, a historic building at the heart of the MSU campus. And they dance, sing, play music, act, create art, and write in their own classrooms, theatre, art studio, gallery, media center, and music practice rooms. Live your learning.