In his new book, How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, Moustafa Bayoumi delves into the rich, complicated lives of seven men and women who are completely different in every way but two: They're all from Brooklyn, and they're all Arab. Their stories are American stories, with kaleidoscopic views.
We meet Sami, a Christian who signed up for the Marines. He was on a bus headed to basic training when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. After two deployments to Iraq, his sense of identity developed from amorphous into impassioned.
Syrian-born Rasha comes from a secularized Muslim family. As part of the xenophobic response to Sept. 11, she and her family were rounded up in a raid and imprisoned for months alongside criminals.
Yasmin was a devout 15-year-old Muslim and a popular kid at her high school. When she couldn't attend a school dance due to her religious beliefs, she was pressured to resign from the student council. (Yasmin is now in law school.)
The author, himself, is young, Arab and Brooklynese. He began writing the book at a moment when hate crimes spiked 1,700 percent against Arabs and Muslims, and when a USA Today/Gallup poll found that 39 percent of Americans believed all Muslims — including U.S. citizens — should carry special IDs. [Link]
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