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

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  495 ratings  ·  83 reviews
The story of how young Arab and Muslim Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the enemy

Arab 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 Ir
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 14th 2008 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,399)
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Heather Colacurcio
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 ...more
K. Euler
I want to like ethnographic works--I really do--but then I see lines like, " Yasmin her unique looks--a sandy complexion, puffy lips, and black currants for eyes." Still, the portraits were detailed, albeit melodramatic, and provided a different perspective on the issue of prejudice in a post-9/11 world. I was most invested in the analysis which took place predominantly in the introductory and concluding chapters. Bayoumi sets the historical scene for readers, reminding us that this gene ...more
Caroline Alicia
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
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
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, than on my way home, and than at 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.

This is a story of my city, my borough (Brooklyn). These people - all young and under 30 - could be my neighbors or friends. The streets, businesses,

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 Mu
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
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, ...more
Dec 01, 2008 Remi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone seeking to understand the mindset of Arab Americans today
What Moustafa Bayoumi captures in his latest work is what many have been yearning for since 9/11 in the Arab American community: an encapsulation and presentation of the voice of the unheard. Too often, our history--even as it unfolds--is told by our neighbors, by our news stations, and by those who seek us harm for perceived personal or communal benefit.

I believe the concept of this book is as important as what fills its pages. Shedding light on the lives of the castigated, Bayoumi engages the
Olfat Sakr
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
This was such an informative, well-written book and it is written in such a way that I couldn't put it down. As a Muslim/Arab-American, I could relate to the prejudices that the Muslim Americans experience. This book is set up in narrative sections for different Muslim Americans and it shows such diversity in experiences and attitudes. If a person generalizes Arabs, this book definitely shows that no Arab is alike. This book also shows the discrimination that Arabs faced post 9/11 that the media ...more
Moustafa Bayoumi takes the reader to New York City, where he interviews several under-30 Arab Americans about their experiences growing up in the United States, particularly as it relates to being Arab, and, with one exception, Muslim. Some of the stories are triumphant, some sad. But all of them are fascinating and emerge as complex human beings.

He does not much use their voice, but uses the style of an ethnographer - mixing his own observations and some social history with the words of his su
The first thing any reader will have to note is that this book is extremely well written. The author is a college English professor but this work is not what one might expect from an academic. His thesis is that young Arab Americans and Muslims face special discriminatory challenges, especially after 9-11. The point that these slights are inflicted in sundry and subtle (and not so subtle) ways, is deftly made with thought-provoking experiences. This treatise, in my opinion, effortlessly runs the ...more
This book is so important. I really want to hand a copy to just about everybody and tell them they need to read it. Especially in light of recent events in American news, I think this is something we need to think about, talk about, and search our hearts about.

The book is well-written and engaging. Bayoumi adds enough details to flesh out each person, but the stories don't drag. I connected more with some of the people profiled than others, but that's because these are real people. As with real
I came across this book in an article in the local Sunday paper as the author will be appearing at Millersville University. First off, kudos to MU for making this book required reading for all its incoming freshman. They want to spotlight the Middle East and the experiences of Arabs in the US post 9/11. Second of all, as the American-born mother of three Arab American teens, who have been confronted with their Arab identity, I was very interested to know what else might they face and how others ...more
This was an interesting series of portraits of young Arab-Americans living in Brooklyn, NY. The glimpse into their experiences offers important insights into how their lives have been shaped by popular views of Moslem people and of people of Arabic descent.

At different points in our history, we justified discrimination against Jews because we "knew" they were really unscrupulous businesspeople who committed atrocities in their religious rites ... and we were wrong. We justified discrimination a
This was the last book I read for a seminar on 20th-and-21st-century Immigrant Writers in the US.

While it was certainly well written, I did not like it as much as the others. This is mostly the case because of the subject matter, as I'm simply not that interested in the topic of Arab-Americans. The stories do pack quite a punch, especially the first, which is about a girl who is illegaly imprisoned in the wake of 9/11, but others, such as the one about Yasmin just seemed tedious to me. Yasmin w
I looked forward to reading this for our book group, thinking of something along the lines of Black Like Me, etc. I got much more for my time. As I said to my roommate, "I'm reading a book right now-- I can't say I think you'll 'enjoy' it per se but I think you will feel illuminated by reading it."

The smooth, easy writing style, and the compelling stories had me hooked right away. I had to stop to catch my breath after reading just the first section. I knew there were social problems in the U.S.

“Opposition to my book seems more symptomatic of our moment than produced by its contents,” Moustafa Bayoumi writes in The Chronicle for Higher Education. I just finished reading How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? and I agree. Bayoumi’s book isn't the work of a "radical."

The book is interested in the roadblocks young Arab-Americans hit on the way to adulthood — and the negotiations they make with their background in the process. It’s a coming of age story
It was a real treat to read Bayoumi's seven portraits of young Arab American's living in post-9/11 Brooklyn.

Not only are the stories that he found incredibly interesting, but he also spun the narratives in a very compelling, authentic, way. I am hesitant to describe any of the stories, for fear of taking something away from the experience of approaching each one completely fresh the first time you read it, but I found the story of Yasmin, a young student who fights against injustice in her high
I don't know how to describe the type of book this is ... new journalism? With elements of oral history...and something else. Anyway it's very worth reading.

There is one paragraph that sticks out in my mind, the end of the portrait of Omar, where Bayoumi describes the feeling of sensing that the struggles you are facing are caused by racism, but also really wondering if you are being "paranoid"...and how this is like being kept awake by the sound of a mosquito buzzing in your ear and wondering
This is a book about the experience of being young and Arab in America in the post-9/11 world, explored through portraits of the lives of a few young men and women in Brooklyn.

This was a nice book, breezy and full of the anecdotes and human content that academic studies of the same subject invariably lacks. For me there was the added novelty of knowing one of the people discussed within the book's pages.

The author also makes broader points about the American experience and the little acts of op
أعتقد أن الكاتب قام بعمل جيد نسبياً في عملية تقديمه لقصص هؤلاء الأمريكييّن المسلمين من أصول عربية بطريقة تبيّن أفكارهم و مشاعرهم حيّال كونهم عرب أمريكييّن من حيث كيف يراهم الآخرين. هذا قد يكفي و قد يوّصل الفكرة المنشودة. لكنّي مع ذلك لم أظن أن مناقشاته و تناوله للقصص كان جيداً كفاية.
Mahmoud Haggui
The chance was given to twenty something Arab American to talk about their personal experience in NYC and Brooklyn after the terrorist attacks of September. but it's not the whole scene. with the rise of Catholic immigration to the country in the 19th century , Irish and Italian American were attacked for their religion. they suffered mob violence and frequent accusation of holding papal loyalties above republican values.. APART FROM THAT, have any scholars paid the same attention for the Violat ...more
An excellent book which I believe more people should read - I think a lot of the overall point of the book can be fairly obvious, yet the more specific details of the infringements upon young Arab Muslims' rights in the US are more unknown and hidden, and the identity struggles they face very much interested me. The varied stories of the young people featured are great in showing the real people behind supposed 'threats', and while I felt the last story may have let the book down very slightly i ...more
Kristina A
This book is being considered for the Common Read at our university. It's a strong contender. This was a quick read, the stories were engaging, and I think it will provoke good conversation if it is chosen. I liked that Bayoumi tried to interview young people from a lot of different backgrounds. My only slight criticisms are that there was actually quite a bit of reinforcement of gender stereotypes in the stories, and that (as others have noted) some of the stories are more tightly constructed t ...more
Each chapter is a portrait of a young Arab-American in the Brooklyn area and their various experiences before and since 9/11. This is a great selection of life stories from a group of people that a lot of America knows little to nothing about. Bayoumi explores the way in which each person struggles to create or maintain their identity when there are so many factors involved. He also does a great job of showing the reader the significant points in the person’s life and how we might all be able to ...more
Poignant to have read this book on the 10-year anniversary of September 11th. The author interviewed young Arab-identifying Brooklyn-ites who shared details of their pre and post 9/11 lives. Well written accounts with rich, nuances of each participant made the individual stories come alive. Themes of oppression, invisibility while being all too visible, identity development, cultural liminality (between Arab countries of origin and America), passing as white, family culture, religion, tenderness ...more
Both important and informative, this book featured portraits of seven different young Arab Americans and the lives they lead in a post-9/11 world. It was interesting to read about such a diverse group of people (whether it was a soldier, an aspiring journalist, or a grocery store clerk, a person struggling to reconnect with their Muslim heritage or someone trying to find common ground between being Arab and American, etc.). I really appreciated how deliberate the author was in choosing which peo ...more
This was a great used-bookstore find! The author does a good job of writing the stories of these youths In an engaging and accessible way. The "portraits" were an appropriate length and spanned a broad spectrum of experience--some were even left unresolved which felt honest and compelling.
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