How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? Hardcover – Aug 19 2008
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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 text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book's only shortcoming is that it doesn't fully represent the Arab-American community. Though the majority of Arab-Americans are Christian, Bayoumi only shares the story of one. In the preface of his book, Bayoumi states his reasoning: "...Arab-American Muslims are at the eye of today's storms. They are forced to reconcile particular American foreign policies that affect their countries of origin with the idea that their faith poses an existential threat to Western civilization."
Bayoumi's assertion may be correct, but doesn't adequately explain his decision to focus more on Arab-American Muslims than Arab-American Christians.
Arab-American Christians must also reconcile certain American policies (both foreign and domestic) with their love and dedication to both their ancestral homelands and new homeland. They also face the same social and political backlash associated with being an Arab or Muslim in a post-9-11 America.
Arab-American Christians find themselves in an even more precarious position in that they're often forced to serve as a bridge between their Arab-American Muslim brethren and non-Arab/Muslim Americans. In many cases, Arab-American Christians have even taken a leading role in educating non-Arab/Muslim Americans about Islam. While those that do may feel a sense of duty to serve as their brother's keeper, most also recognize that popular misconceptions about Muslims also affect them. After all, few - if any - Arab-American Christians haven't been touched by the racial profiling, discrimination and violence directed towards Muslim-looking people since 9-11. In this sense, Arab-American Christians are direct stakeholders in how non-Arab/Muslim Americans treat Muslims in America.
Bayoumi makes an attempt to address these issues in his story of Sami - an Arab-American Christian who "must navigate the minefield of associations the public has of Arabs as well as the expectations that Muslim Arab Americans have of him as an Arab-American soldier." Sadly, Sami's account is less relatable to Arab-American Christians as are the six other stories of Arab-American Muslims - as he doesn't even self-identify as being an Arab-American.
In Bayoumi's defense, he never asserts that the stories he shares in this book represent all, or even most, Arab-Americans. In fact, he states: "...I make no claims that these seven narratives touch on every detail of Arab-American life." However, his decision to present a more rounded picture of the post 9-11 experience of Arab-American Muslims over that of Arab-American Christians renders his book more useful to readers wanting to understand what it feels like to be young and an Arab-Muslim in America - not what it's like "Being Young and Arab in America."
In this book, Bayoumi is granted unique access into the lives of these young people, allowing him to tell each story colorfully and to share their most innermost feelings. The internal conflicts they experience as Arabs and Americans are instructive, as they reflect the greatest political and cultural challenges facing our world today.
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 outside world with human stories seen through a human lens. Bayoumi masterfully graces the page with a rich and unique style of description, making this read not only intense, but enjoyable.
I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking understanding into the mindset of many Arab Americans today.
I felt that Bayoumi did such a good job of connecting the modes of past prejudices to our contemporary situation, driving home the point that this country is far from over racism. The stories of the people whom the author follows are at points touching, and nothing makes a stronger example than the lives of actual people.