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Zeitoun by Dave Eggers has been selected for Wilmington College’s 2011 First Year Summer Reading Program

Abdulrahman Zeitoun was born in Jableh, Syria to a Muslim hardware store owner and onetime sailor who insisted that his children learn trades outside the local traditions of fishing and shipbuilding. After a few years of apprenticeship in Jableh, Zeitoun spent ten years working at sea as a crewman, engineer and fisherman. During this time he traveled the world and eventually settled in the United States in 1988. There he met his wife, Kathy with whom he founded their business, Zeitoun Painting Contractors, LLC.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in late August 2005, Zeitoun chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, distributing what supplies he had, ferrying neighbors to higher ground, checking on his tenants, and caring for abandoned dogs.  In early September, Zeitoun and three companions were arrested at one of Zeitoun's rental houses by a mixed group of National Guardsmen and local police. Although the men were not immediately charged with any crimes, they were detained in a makeshift jail in a Greyhound bus station for three days before being transferred to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in nearby St. Gabriel, Louisiana. Zeitoun was held at Hunt Correctional Center for 20 more days without having stood trial. During that time he was refused medical attention and the use of a phone to alert his family of his predicament.

In this account of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Dave Eggers tells the story of how one person who chose to stay behind and help others was the victim of racial profiling and cultural insensitivity.  The story is one that helps us to understand what it is like to be considered “the other” in the horrific context of a national tragedy.

Participation in the Summer Reading Program is your first assignment as a Wilmington student.  All first year students are asked to share in the experience of reading a book and participating in small group discussions.  The goal of this program is to provide students with an academic experience as they embark on their journey as college students. Students and faculty members will meet during Fall Orientation to discuss the critical elements of the book and to place this information into the context of a living/ learning environment such as the one we choose to create at Wilmington.  We also use this opportunity to get students accustomed to reading thoughtfully and to share their ideas and interpretations with others in a spirit of inquiry that is integral to the Wilmington academic community.

Students will receive a complimentary copy of Zeitoun when they come to Summer Orientation. 

To view additional resources to help you with understanding our selected summer reading, please visit our Zeitoun Additional Resources page.