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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
Author: Moustafa Bayoumi
ISBN 13: 9780143115410
ISBN 10: 143115413
Edition: 6/28/09
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 2009-07-28
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
List Price: $17.00

An eye-opening look at how young Arab- and Muslim- Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the enemy

Just over a century ago , W.E.B. Du Bois posed a probing question in his classic The Souls of Black Folk: How does it feel to be a problem? Now, Moustafa Bayoumi asks the same about America's new "problem"-Arab- and Muslim-Americans. Bayoumi takes readers into the lives of seven twenty-somethings living in Brooklyn, home to the largest Arab-American population in the United States. He moves beyond stereotypes and clichés to reveal their often unseen struggles, from being subjected to government surveillance to the indignities of workplace discrimination. Through it all, these young men and women persevere through triumphs and setbacks as they help weave the tapestry of a new society that is, at its heart, purely American.

Publishers Weekly

According to Bayoumi (The Edward Said Reader), for most of its history, American society has paid little attention to its Arab and Muslim citizens-until the events of September 11 thrust millions of uninvolved people into a very unfavorable limelight, often forcing them to answer for the monstrous deeds of others. The author profiles seven young people for whom that day's horrors were not just a shared national tragedy but the beginning of a struggle to define themselves, as they began to face pervasive workplace discrimination and government surveillance, cultural misunderstanding and threats of violence. In many ways, his absorbing and affectionate book is a quintessentially American picture of 21st-century citizens "absorbing and refracting all the ethnicities and histories surrounding [them]." However, the testimonies from these young adults-summary seizures from their homes, harassment from strangers, being fired for having an Arab or Muslim name-have a weight and a sorrow that is "often invisible to the general public." Says Akram, a Palestinian-American college student, "I love the diversity of this country, I really do, but the whole politics.... America's not America anymore to me." (Aug.)

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