Dave Eggers Awareness Month
October has been claimed by dozens of niche groups for their own causes: National Diversity Awareness Month, Country Ham Month, National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Month, National Applejack Month—but I don’t think college students were aware of what applejack is until now.
So I’m going to designate October as Dave Eggers Awareness Month, because I have never been more aware of the author before, even while reading a book he penned; or standing in the middle of 826 Valencia, a writing center he co-founded in San Francisco.
It began early in the month by cracking a copy of The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 at The Avid Reader, a compilation that Eggers edited. On page 37, under Best American New Band Names—with the disclaimer that the bands “to the best of the editors’ knowledge were new (newly formed or released their first album) in 2009”—Sacramento’s Ganglians, What’s Up? and Boyz IV Men (former Sac residents) are recipients of the title. Other honorees include Shark Pants, Ginsu Wives and Chlamydiot.
But Eggers awareness spiked days later while driving down Geary Street in San Francisco when, instead of seeing the usual Proactiv ad at a bus stop, I saw the familiar illustration of a man paddling down a flooded street: the cover art of Eggers’ latest book, Zeitoun—a nonfiction story of a Muslim family in a post-9/11 America living through the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and the government’s manmade catastrophe of handling the aftermath. It’s the 2010 selection for the San Francisco Public Library’s One City One Book program—and Sac’s One Book Sacramento project, too. Although, I haven’t seen it advertised on any bus stops here in town.
So by the evening of Wednesday, October 20, my cognition of Eggers came to a crest at the Crest Theatre: He was seated before me onstage to speak about Zeitoun to a near-capacity crowd. The author, togged much like a professor, was joined by a Sacramento State professor of history Joseph Palermo, who questioned Eggers about the making of the book. Obviously a storyteller, he easily told anecdotes about the Zeitoun family, that they continue living the American Dream in New Orleans despite the injustices they endured after the hurricane. He said they’ve since had another son, but “other than that, they’re back to normal.”
He said that “Katrina didn’t break the system; it just exposed it,” and it was acknowledged multiple times throughout the evening the potential relevancy this story has in this city, with the questionable strength of Sacramento’s levies.
But Eggers made sure to conclude his time onstage by sharing his own awareness gained earlier that afternoon, while running errands downtown, calling Sacramento “such a livable city.” The crowd applauded. Eggers got a happy ending.