Book Reading & Discussion: How Does It Feel To Be A Problem by Moustafa Bayoumi

Wed, September 10, 2008 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Free and Open to the Public

How does it feel to be a problem? How does it feel to be forced to resign as a class officer at your public high school because you are Muslim and your faith prevents you from attending mandatory dances? How does it feel to be an Arab-American Christian soldier fighting in Iraq? How does it feel to be released from prison three months after you and your family are rounded up in the middle of the night and incarcerated, when your only “crime” is being an Arab-American in post-September 11 th America? How does it feel, to be a problem? W.E.B. Du Bois first posed this question in his seminal treatise The Souls of Black Folk, and now, over a century later, Moustafa Bayoumi explores the same question through the first-hand accounts of seven young Arab-Americans living in Brooklyn. Their answers reveal the passions, frustrations, struggles, aspirations, and ultimately, the undeterred hope harbored by the inspiring young people featured in Bayoumi’s portraits.

In HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A PROBLEM? Being Young and Arab in America (The Penguin Press; August 18, 2008; $24.95), Bayoumi introduces us to Rasha, Sami, Lina, Akram, Yasmin, Omar, and Rami, whose stories reveal complex individuals behind the stereotypes that plague Arabs and Muslims in the United States. Since September 11th, these two groups have reluctantly formed what Bayoumi calls the first new community of suspicion to emerge since the hard-won victories of the Civil Rights era. The lives of Bayoumi’s subjects are complicated by adversities that are at once familiar and unprecedented: government surveillance and detentions, workplace discrimination, warfare in their countries of origin, threats of vigilante violence, the infiltration of spies and informants into their midst, and the disappearance of friends or family.

And yet each of Bayoumi’s portraits is a quintessential American story of race, religion, and civil rights, full of struggle and also hope. This is a community that lives next door, and yet a world away, and the combined testimony of Bayoumi’s subjects begins to bridge this distance. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A PROBLEM is an important and necessary book, in which Bayoumi’s subjects answer Du Bois’s century-old question, just as they start to grasp how it feels to be a part of the solution.

About the Author

Moustafa Bayoumi was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and raised in Canada. He earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is coeditor of The Edward Said Reader, and his essays have appeared in The Best Music Writing 2006, The Nation, The London Review of Books, The Village Voice, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

This event is sponsored by ADC New York

Last updated: 2008-09-04 00:42:14

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