This is the true and astonishing tale of a decent man caught up in a total breakdown of society. The fact that this happened recently and in the USA shows just how easy and quickly things can go bad.
The book is about Zeitoun, a Syrian born American and his experience in New Orleans at the time of hurricane Katrina. It takes the American dream (a hard working immigrant with a supportive and loving family doing well in the US) and then shows us just how badly a country can treat its own people when things go wrong. And the levels of just how wrong things got are almost unbelievable.
As Katrina approaches New Orleans, Zeitoun evacuates his family but decides to stay to look after his property and business. As the floods come he finds himself in a canoe, paddling around the city helping rescue people, feeding abandoned pets and distributing food and water. Just the sort of person you would want as a neighbour or to help in a crisis.
After a few days things take an ugly turn when Zeitoun, along with three friends, is arrested for looting his own house and his own property. Put into a temporary prison, allowed little food, no external contact or legal representation Zeitoun is swept up in the paranoia and administrative mess that was post Katrina New Orleans. He and other innocent individuals were all held for considerable periods of time before being released with no charges, and the tales of what was done are horrific, the elderly diabetic lady locked up for getting food from her own car, people arrested and having all their money 'vanish' during their processing, all incredible. Because Zeitoun was dark skinned and a Muslim, he was treated with suspicion and disrespect because there were fears that 'terrorists might use the chaos of Katrina to cause additional trouble'.
Here in the UK we saw much of the footage, but the dark underbelly of what happened during Katrina is exposed here, and it is a tale that will have your jaw dropping in disbelief. How a country such as the US could get all this so very wrong and to fail to admit to its mistakes shows just how thin a veneer society and civilisation really is.
This experience has had a profound impact on Zeitoun and his wife is obviously still suffering from PTSD. I hope things turn around for them, they receive compensation for the way they were treated and those held accountable get what they deserve too.
Delighted to see that the profits from this book go to a range of charities, but once you come to know Zeitoun through this book, you would expect nothing less.