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Sources: Karin Westman, 785-532-2190,;
Greg Eiselein, 785-532-0386,;
and Stephen Kiefer, 785-532-2642,
News release prepared by: Megan Molitor, 785-532-3452,

Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011


MANHATTAN -- Devouring this year's Kansas State Book Network book, "Zeitoun," is only the first part of the story -- the organizers of the program at Kansas State University have planned several events throughout the fall meant to emphasize the book's powerful themes.

The Kansas State Book Network provides incoming freshmen with a copy of the same book to read during the summer, with the book selection changing each year. Current students, faculty and staff are also able to get their hands on a copy of the book, allowing the entire campus to participate in the program and engage in thought-provoking conversations.

This summer students received "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers at their campus orientation. "Zeitoun" follows the nonfiction tale of a Syrian-American contractor who had the means to leave New Orleans when warnings of Hurricane Katrina began pouring in but elected to stay. He doled out supplies to victims and saved pets but ran into trouble of his own along the way.

The themes in "Zeitoun" are plentiful, including perseverance, equality and justice. Karin Westman, head of the department of English and chair of the Kansas State Book Network's events committee, said the team has planned events to bring these themes to the surface and spark conversation.

"The events this fall mark the intersection of service and recovery, showing us the many ways that a community of individuals can help each other survive and thrive," she said.

Activities kick off with the Aug. 28 showing of "Trouble the Water," in conjunction with Movies on the Grass, at dusk at Coffman Commons in front of K-State's Hale Library. Westman said "Trouble the Water" is an award-winning documentary about Hurricane Katrina that seamlessly weaves 15 minutes of home movie footage with archival news segments shot over the two years following the hurricane.

Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore will give a public lecture, "The New Normal: Leadership and Preparedness in the 21st Century," at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the K-State Student Union Grand Ballroom. The Kansas State Book Network and K-State First sponsor the lecture, with additional support from the University Honors Program, K-State Libraries and military affairs.

Honore commanded Joint Task Force-Katrina, leading the U.S. Department of Defense response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Westman said Honore will give his reflections on his work in New Orleans as well as how to prepare for future national disasters.

Greg Eiselein, professor of English and co-director of K-State First, said Honore's lecture should be invaluable to the students' experience after reading "Zeitoun."

"He is widely credited with transforming the initial debacle of relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina into a genuine humanitarian rescue mission," Eiselein said. "Sometimes known by his nickname, 'The Ragin' Cajun,' the general's style is sometimes rough, but he has proven himself to be an effective and caring leader in times of crisis."

A campuswide service project will take place Oct. 15-22 in conjunction with the Kansas State Book Network program and Community Service Week. Westman said the project will be coordinated with Hands-On K-State and the School of Leadership Studies. It will feature various afternoon, evening and daylong opportunities for students, faculty and staff to learn how they can help in their communities.

Details for the service project will be available in early September, with registration beginning Sunday, Oct. 2.

The final Kansas State Book Network event for the semester will be a teleconference with "Zeitoun" author Eggers from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, in Town Hall at the Leadership Studies Building.

Stephen Kiefer, co-chair of the Kansas State Book Network, said the book network events allow one of the organization's goals to be completed: using the common reading experience as a portal.

"Students can expand their knowledge and experience beyond the premise of a book," he said. "'Zeitoun' offers us an opportunity to explore a deeply personal event through the main character and also to see the broader implications of Katrina for a city's survival and the nation's psyche."