Campus News

'Zeitoun' Author Dave Eggers Visits UK


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 24, 2010) – Nationally acclaimed author, educator and philanthropist Dave Eggers will visit the University of Kentucky campus on Monday, Sept. 27, to visit with students and deliver a public discussion of his award-winning, national best-selling novel “Zeitoun.”

The University of Kentucky Division of Student Affairs and its Office of New Student and Parent Programming  are hosting the campus-wide event as part of the university’s Common Reading Experience. All new UK students received a copy of "Zeitoun" (pronounced Zay-toon) to read before classes began this fall. Discussion groups, writing assignments, photo and essay contests and other assignments and activities concerning the book are ongoing.

“Zeitoun” is a day-to-day narration of the Zeitoun family's experiences surviving Hurricane Katrina and living with its aftermath.

"With the fifth anniversary of the disaster approaching, the selection of ‘Zeitoun’ is particularly timely and poignant," said Michelle Ashcraft, assistant director of New Student and Parent Programs and coordinator of the Common Reading Experience.

Eggers will spend Monday afternoon with various classes on campus before speaking in the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall at 7 p.m. The lecture, followed by a question-and-answer period, is free and open to the campus and the public. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Overflow seating will be available in the Recital Hall. A book signing will follow the lecture in the President’s Room.  

A collaboration between Student Affairs, the Office of New Student and Parent Programs and Academic Affairs, the Common Reading Experience has several goals:

-- Establish immediate expectations for engagement of students in an intellectual community. 

-- Provide opportunity for discourse regarding personal, University, community, and societal values. 

-- Foster a sense of community among students, families, faculty, and staff through shared academic experiences both inside and outside the classroom.

-- Promote interdisciplinary involvement in meaningful learning surrounding a single book.

-- Foster collaboration with other co-curricular efforts (i.e., K Week, UK101, living-learning communities, Center for Community Outreach, Student Activities Board, etc.)

Current UK students had a significant role in the entire Common Reading Experience, from choosing the book to planning a full academic year of events and activities. The selection committee, composed of three students, six faculty and 11 staff members, read six books during the fall 2009 semester before selecting "Zeitoun."

Their criteria were:

-- Relevance to first-year students, current society, and/or local community

-- Readability and potential to spark passionate discussion

-- Possibility for additional programming

-- Ability to promote one or more institutional initiatives and/or values

-- Availability of author to speak on campus

-- Opportunities for creative assignments in courses

Eggers is the author of six previous books, including “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” winner of the Independent Book Award, and “What Is the What,” a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of France's Prix Medici. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentine Achak Deng Foundation, overseen by Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan.

Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces books, an eponymous quarterly journal, a monthly magazine (The Believer), and Wholphin, a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston.

In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.