Recent Reads

Zeitoun

One of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read, Zeitoun follows the life of a New Orleans family through Hurricane Katrina and into the terrible aftermath. Without spoiling the plot, I’ll give a brief review.

Things I knew before reading this book:

1) The storm was very strong.
2) The breached levees left the city mostly underwater for a couple weeks.
3) Evacuating beforehand was difficult and painfully slow.

Things I didn’t know before reading this book:

1) The media created firestorms about horrific violence that was supposedly occurring, but most of that was speculation and acted as a cover for some groups to perpetrate racial and ethnic violence.
2) FEMA and police officers stocked themselves up after the storm by looting stores, while simultaneously arresting other people for doing the same thing.
3) The climate of fear allowed FEMA to arrest many people who stayed to protect their personal property, hold them without charging them, without a hearing or lawyer, without even a phone call, for weeks and even months.

I’m still struggling to grasp the implications of what people in official capacity did in their response to this storm, and am more than mildly concerned that so thin a line seems to exist between the actions required to restore order and the ease with which literal prison camps were constructed and their corresponding mentality of brutality, discrimination, subjugation, fear, and coercion took hold throughout the storm-ravaged region. While the effects from Katrina were bad, the response was exponentially worse.

And yet the story contains hope, as all good stories do, that the capacity to create, to protect, to believe, to (dare I say it) do the right thing remains an unstoppable force, even through the worst of times.

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