Looking out the window, I see debris – pieces of furniture, vehicle scrap, electronic items. Finally, Hurricane Katrina has passed leaving behind an unimaginable trail of destruction in its wake. The neighbourhood is empty, most people having evacuated. I register movement from the corner of my eye. Zeitoun, my neighbour, might be out on his rescue mission again – scouring the area for stranded pets. However, I am wrong. I catch a furor of activity next door. About six armed men. I squint, trying to get a closer look. I feel a sucker punch to my gut, as Zeitoun walks out – handcuffed.
Zeitoun, a non-fiction book, describes the journey of a Syrian American by name Zeitoun. A painting contracting business owner by profession, Zeitoun is an immigrant, well known, popular. Initially, when Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, Zeitoun having spent numerous years in the area knows the locality like the back of his palm, decides to ride out the storm. Subsequently, he goes around securing houses, rigging loose equipment. Using a secondhand canoe, he paddles his way around – helping elderly seniors stuck in the storm’s aftermath, rescuing abandoned pets and more. A month later, a combination of official authorities arrest him without any reason or explanation. Under accusations of terrorist activities, they detain him for several days. He’s not allowed medical attention or use of a phone to contact his family. Zeitoun has been touted as a book targeted at America’s two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina.