Abdulrahman Zeitoun was in New Orleans when the levees broke. The Syrian-born painting contractor had decided to stay behind and protect his property while his family fled Hurricane Katrina. After the flood, he spent days rescuing victims in a small canoe until he was arrested, on suspicion of being an Al Qaeda member.
The true story of Zeitoun focuses on one man’s experience of bureaucracy and good intentions gone wrong in the aftermath of an epochal catastrophe. Author Dave Eggers “has found in the Katrina mud … the full-fleshed story of a single family, and in telling that story he hits larger targets with more punch than those who have already attacked the thematic and historic giants of this disaster,” wrote Timothy Egan in a 2009 New York Times review.
SMU has chosen Zeitoun as the class of 2014’s first-year Common Reading Experience – the book every member of the Fall 2010 incoming class will read and discuss. The selection committee cites the book for its “explorations of culture and crisis” in the context of an event that has impacted an entire generation of students.
Committee members are now seeking leaders for the discussion event that has become one of the first shared experiences for new students during their first week on the Hilltop.
“It doesn’t matter what school you’re from or whether you normally work only with graduate or professional students. It doesn’t matter whether you are active or emeritus,” wrote Associate Provost Tom Tunks in an e-mail to faculty and staff. “We really want the new students to interact with faculty and staff in a substantive way from the very beginning of their stay with us.”
To volunteer as a discussion leader for Fall 2010, contact Diana Grumbles, senior lecturer in English and director of first-year writing.