New Mizzou Reads book discusses societal issues, Hurricane Katrina

Incoming freshmen will be asked to read this nonfiction account by Dave Eggers in the summer.
"Zeitoun" by David Eggers sits in Barnes & Noble in Columbia. "Zeitoun" will be the required freshman read as a part of Mizzou Reads.

“Zeitoun,” a nonfiction novel by Dave Eggers, has been selected as the book for the 2011 Mizzou Reads program.

Incoming freshmen will be asked to read the book during the summer and participate in small group discussion sessions Aug. 18 as part of MU’s Fall Welcome program, according to the Office of New Student Program’s website.

“Zeitoun” is a nonfiction account of Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s experiences in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina. It also explores themes such as crisis management and race relations in American through the eyes of Zeitoun’s Muslim family.

Mizzou Reads Committee Chairwoman June Deweese said the book was selected because it met the criteria for the program, which includes being intellectually stimulating and discussing societal issues.

“Hurricane Katrina is something that happened in the lifetime of these students and something that probably each of them has read about or seen on the news or television,” Deweese said.

Jordan Parshall, graduate assistant in the Office of New Student Programs, said Eggers’ book provides a new take on a familiar event.

“I think that it addresses really important and interesting social and cultural issues,” Parshall said. “Even though Hurricane Katrina was a number of years ago, these are things that continually come up, so it’s still definitely applicable.

The book was chosen from a list that originally included several dozen books nominated online or by committee members. Parshall said the committee felt the book was instantly engaging.

“One of the things we look for is that it’s really enjoyable and engaging, because we don’t want students to get a few pages in and set it aside and not get into it,” Parshall said. “Everyone pretty much agreed that by page four, you were pretty hooked.”

According to ZeitounFoundation.org, the book has previously been used for 15 reading programs at colleges and cities across the country, including freshman-reading programs at Duke University and the University of Illinois.

This year’s book is of a different genre than last year’s choice, Jean Twenge’s “Generation Me,” which is a statistics-based exploration of changes in generational attitudes. Parshall said the shift was a result of the new committee’s preferences.

“The genre can vary a lot year to year, but we don’t look to purposely vary the genre,” Parshall said.

The Office of New Student Programs is unsure whether Eggers will be available to speak on campus, but plans for activities relating to the book are still in the works.

“We haven’t yet finalized the speaker plans, but we’ll definitely have a speaker that’s entertaining and topical,” Parshall said.

University Bookstore is offering “Zeitoun” at a discounted price of $10 throughout the summer.

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