How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem Being Young and Arab in America The story of how young Arab and Muslim Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the enemyArab and Muslim Americans are the new largely undiscussed problem

  • Title: How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America
  • Author: Moustafa Bayoumi
  • ISBN: 9781594201769
  • Page: 321
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The story of how young Arab and Muslim Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the enemyArab and Muslim Americans are the new, largely undiscussed problem of American society, their lives no better understood than those of African Americans a century ago Under the cover of the terrorist attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and IrThe story of how young Arab and Muslim Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the enemyArab and Muslim Americans are the new, largely undiscussed problem of American society, their lives no better understood than those of African Americans a century ago Under the cover of the terrorist attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the explosion of political violence around the world, a fundamental misunderstanding of the Arab and Muslim American communities has been allowed to fester and even to define the lives of the seven twentysomething men and women whom we meet in this book Their names are Rami, Sami, Akram, Lina, Yasmin, Omar, and Rasha, and they all live in Brooklyn, New York, which is home to the largest number of Arab Americans in the United States.We meet Sami, an Arab American Christian, who navigates the minefield of associations the public has of Arabs as well as the expectations that Muslim Arab Americans have of him as a marine who fought in the Iraq war And Rasha, who, along with her parents, sister, and brothers, was detained by the FBI in a New Jersey jail in early 2002 Without explanation, she and her family were released several months later As drama of all kinds swirls around them, these young men and women strive for the very things the majority of young adults desire opportunity, marriage, happiness, and the chance to fulfill their potential But what they have now are lives that are less certain, and difficult, than they ever could have imagined workplace discrimination, warfare in their countries of origin, government surveillance, the disappearance of friends or family, threats of vigilante violence, and a host of other problems that thrive in the age of terror.And yet How Does It Feel to Be a Problem takes the raw material of their struggle and weaves it into an unforgettable, and very American, story of promise and hope In prose that is at once blunt and lyrical, Moustafa Bayoumi allows us to see the world as these men and women do, revealing a set of characters and a place that indelibly change the way we see the turbulent past and yet still hopeful future of this country.

    One thought on “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America”

    1. This book was assigned to me for a college course and I couldn't be more grateful for it. As a twenty-something, I've seen a fair share of recent American tragedy, the most horrific being September 11, 2001. Yet, the effects of tragedy have serious consequences when an angry, grieving society wants to place blame. That blame has been and continues to be placed on the Arab and Muslim community, creating a heavy and unjust burden for those residing in the supposed "land of the free". Reading throu [...]

    2. This is an interesting book about the lives of young Muslims of Arab descent living in Brooklyn in the first few years after 9/11. If that sounds very specific, well, it is, but despite what may initially seem to be a narrow focus, the book seems to me to do a good job of addressing various aspects of Arab Muslim life in the U.S. Each of its seven chapters is devoted to a different young person, whose story unfolds over 30-odd pages. Most of the chapters have a specific focus. Rasha’s story is [...]

    3. Dr. Bayoumi was the keynote speaker at the Academic Convocation at Carlow University today. Unfortunately I did not know about this in time to get a copy of the book to read, which would be my preference. But he is a fantastic speaker, and spent a great deal of time answering questions at the reception held afterwards. Very articulate, knowledgeable, informed, and entertaining. Any time you can get a bunch of freshmen students involved and actually want to ask questions (even beyond what was req [...]

    4. This was an interesting read on a topic that needs more discussion in our society. A strong point of this book is that the author provided accounts from a wide variety of Arab-Americans. Doing this helped to break the stereotype of Arab-Americans that is common these days. The accounts provided a good picture of the situations that Arab-Americans face today.One thing that I didn't like about the book so much is that there are quite a few reconstructed conversations that the author did not witnes [...]

    5. I appreciated all these stories BUT Yasmin's. I felt her story should not have been included as it wasn't valid. She signed her name to run for student body secretary. When you sign your name to a document you agree to ALL the stipulations, otherwise you should NOT sign your name. One of the stipulations, that as an officer, you MUST attend ALL functions. Her beliefs did not allow her to attend dances because she felt they were morally wrong. In her opinion it was all about sexed up teenagers an [...]

    6. What a weekend to finish this book. My country's racist president signed an executive order banning people from 7 majority Muslim and Arab countries late last week, and this weekend, I sat down to finish the 7 stories of Rasha, Lina, Yasmin, Sami, Akram, Omar, and Rami. Although these are stories from real people that happened between 20 and 10 years ago, and they are so similar to what is happening still. Bayoumi is a careful and political mastermind, and he picked stories that showcase the cou [...]

    7. all history is biography bayoumi shows us again and again and again with these only occasionally sentimental, sometimes triumphant, and very very often heartbreaking profiles of young arab-america. these portraits of brooklynites show a pervasive racism that i'll admit was profoundly unfamiliar to me. profound not only because these documented injustices occurred close by, down the block and up the hall--but profound too because i'd naively assumed that, for the most part, your cruder, tradition [...]

    8. If it hadn't been necessary for me to read this all the way through, then I would've thrown this away and taken it to the garbage can OUTSIDE.Being forced to read a book for a university class is always guaranteed to leave a sour taste in your mouth. However, with each new book, I always stay optimistic and try to like it.And with this little number, I tried liking it so hard I might as well have been constipated.I do, however, give kudos to this book for addressing a serious issue all over the [...]

    9. I bought this book on a whim while walking around Chelsea at one of my favorite bookstores. I started reading it in the store and continued as I walked around the city that afternoon. As well as on my way home, and then at the seat by the window in my apartment till I finished it. I could not put in down. I completed it in less than 3 hours. Yes, I thought it was that good.The story is of my city, my borough, in particular, about Brooklyn. The people in this story - all young and under 30 - coul [...]

    10. Its difficult rating a book on the basis of enjoyment when it's purpose is to inform, not to entertain. That being said, this is an informative look into a perspective that we (in America) are not often given a window to. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others (the first is especially moving), only because a few of the narratives seemed to be unnecessarily long while other, more compelling ones were cut short. (I think this had something to do with the longer stories belonging to persona [...]

    11. I read this book in preparation for a class I am taking this summer entitled: Retelling and Rewriting America. I found this to be an easy and accessible read. Each chapters tells the story of a young Arab American (all of the participants are younger than thirty) and none of the stories are the same. It is fascinating to read about the transition (for some) to America and how their families assimilated into American culture. It is also heartbreaking to hear how many of these immigrants feel like [...]

    12. How Dows it Feel Be a Problem? is an important discussion of post 9/11 America, although I often found myself wanting more. In the preface, Bayoumj describes this story as a collection of "portraits" and I think that is the best way to approach this book. If you are looking for a nonfiction book filled with facts and studies, you will be disappointed. Instead, it reminds me more of a memoir. We hear each person's story through their voices, see it through their eyes.Also, be warned that the book [...]

    13. Perspectives from young, Arab Americans living in Brooklyn on what it is like to live in post-9/11 America. The stories expose internal and external conflicts that they wrestle with in regards to gender, discrimination, racial profiling, generational divides, and spirituality.

    14. I don't know interesting and varied stories of the experiences of young Arab Americans in the early 2000s, but I felt like they could have been integrated together better and contextualized, rather than told separately. The afterward was a key component of the book but really felt like an afterthought.

    15. From weeksnotice/2010/I highly recommend Moustafa Bayoumi's How Does it Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America. The title comes from W.E.B. Du Bois, who asked the same question about African American during Jim Crow. Bayoumi, who is an English professor at Brooklyn College, chronicles seven Arabs (men and women mostly in their 20s in Brooklyn) and we meet their friends as well.As you might imagine, the result defies all stereotypes. Some are deeply devout Muslims, some are not. So [...]

    16. Nice stories and overall an excellent manifestation of the argument against the essentialization of Arab-American identity. But there was an overarching tone of contempt toward political/military authority and an increasingly pious/holier-than-thou tone which made me kind of lose interest with the latter narratives. The first few were really good, though. And I think the fact that different people's stories might speak to different readers is part of this book's strength.Another strength is how [...]

    17. 3.5 stars--There were times when Bayoumi's writing was so rich and so thoroughly able to capture the experience of his subjects that the pages flew by. I also felt that Bayoumi's journalism shone in most of the book. There were so many stunning and difficult facts, so many awful personal impacts of anti-Arab feeling post-9/11. I have since also read Bayoumi's essay "Between Acceptance and Rejection: Muslim Americans and the Legacies of September 11." While both show Bayoumi's strength in detail, [...]

    18. My cousin was given this book to read for a class in college and she recommended I read it. It tells the story of 7 Arab-Americans' lives after September 11th. The author chose those 7 stories well; he managed to introduce a variety of issues that they face ranging from identity issues, religious issues to discrimination and politics. I admired the characters for persevering and working past the problems they are facing to make a difference and help others who face the same issues.This was defin [...]

    19. I was SO excited for this book, to help me better understand something I have never experienced. I think a book like this needs to be out in the world to show just how difficult it is to be Arab In America. While I was intrigued by the lives of Arab Americans in Brooklyn and outraged at the discrimination they faced, the book devolves into its own form of hatred. I'll be the first to admit America has problems, but I'm not sure hating back helped; it seemed to undermine the genuine struggles in [...]

    20. This is the book assigned to all incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina this year, which is great considering they were under scrutiny for assigning another book on the Quran a few years ago. It's a good insight into the life of 7 Arab Americans (one Christian and 6 Muslims of various levels of religiosity) in the aftermath of 9/11 discussing the types of hardships they went through and that Arab Americans still go through today. Would recommend!

    21. I picked this up at the library with some other books recommended in various articles to deal with post-election anxiety. This book defies stereotypes about Arabs in America by telling seven very distinct stories about individual people and their lives. This book really resonated with me and I know I won't forget it any time soon. (I'm also considering ordering a copy off and sending it to Trump.)

    22. I didn't love Bayoumi's writing style, but I did enjoy the variety of stories and experiences the book shared.

    23. The topic and material concept is important. It's vital as people to be culturally aware of what others experience around us. Some of the stories I really thought were interesting and thought provoking. My problem with this book, however, is two-fold. 1) The author is not a good writer. Both skill wise and integrity wise. It's a clunky read at times, and the book relies heavily on the retelling of other people's conversations that he wasn't present for.2) The last story is basically just Islam E [...]

    24. This was an extremely powerful and thought provoking book. Many many times when reading this book, I'd recognize the difference between my knowledge of what was going on and my awareness. Assuredly, I knew that innocent people were being swept up in mass arrests after 9/11, but reading Rasha's story made me aware. I know that young students face casual discrimination, but hearing Yasmin's story made it real. Many times, the author would refer to numbers and statistics, and again and again, I fou [...]

    25. Bayoumi selects a group of Arab Muslims whose experiences vary, yet nevertheless resemble each other due to the arc of post-9/11 discrimination on which all of them fall. Like the collapse of the towers themselves, the lives of these young Arab Muslims from Brooklyn undergo a structural loss. Bayoumi's writing demonstrates his intimacy with Brooklyn as a critical site of collision, as well as his thorough comprehension of each young person whose portraits he unfolds with each chapter. At times, [...]

    26. This book was upsetting to me. I understand that in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks and the continual assaults by people of the faith that Muslim peoples were demonized and marginalized. When it comes right down to it I suppose people are afraid, but it is a shameful thing to have in your history. I am proud to be an American citizen, but when I see all these horrible ignorant things that people do to other people, it really makes me upset. It should not happen in a country lik [...]

    27. My daughter had to read this before attending UNC Chapel Hill. For all it's talk of being fair and balanced, I did not find it to even attempt to present another side. It even felt in places hypocritical when speaking of the high handedness of one religion only to impose it's own superiority. I did enjoy the glimpse into a culture I know little of. There is no question freedom is a struggle. I hope America continues to discuss and struggle with the balance of freedom versus security. We are all [...]

    28. This was another book that was requires for my college seminar on Why We Hate. I think it opens up your mind to another perspective. Even if you think you can somewhat understand and comprehend how hard and challenging it can be to be an Arab American, this book brings it to a different level. I highly recommend this book to everyone I meet, especially those that tend to be more close minded on the subject.

    29. This book took me forever to finish, but not because it wasn't excellent -- because I wanted to read it slowly, chapter by chapter, and savor its stories. It does a great job of conveying the way that 9/11 and the war on terror has changed the lives of Arab and Muslim Americans. I suspect that I will assign chapters to future classes.

    30. The author tries to break stereotypes about Arabs in the West while completely buying into stereotypes of arabs in the East. At one point he even says that people think women who wear hijab are subservient, but obviously they haven't met women who wear it in the west. Seriously?

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