reviews

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[T]hese are great stories about people who might be your neighbors, and Bayoumi delivers them with urgency, compassion, wryness and hints of poetry. You may walk away from the book with a much greater understanding of Arab-American life, but you’ll feel that’s simply because you’ve hung out with Bayoumi and friends, snarfing down Dunkin’ Donuts or puffing on hookahs, talking about vital issues.

─ James Hannaham, salon.com Critics’ Picks

 

[A] provocative investigation…[D]espite what they have suffered and continue to endure, Bayoumi and his interview subjects still hope that America is a place where they can live in peace─and find justice, fairness, and freedom.

─ Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine

 

[A] thoughtful and highly regarded portrait of [Muslim Americans] living with [today's] growing antagonism.

─ Elizabeth Minkel, The New Yorker

 

How Does It Feel To Be A Problem manages to not only be humorous, intelligent, and filled with fantastic storytelling — it’s also essential reading for those hoping to understand the unknown, unsung causalities of terrorism.

─ Samantha Hunt, author of The Invention of Everything Else, Courier-Journal Best Books of 2008

 

Bayoumi astutely observes that, “Arab and Muslim Americans are constantly talked about but almost never heard from… [yet] sometimes when you are everywhere, you are really nowhere.” Herein lies Bayoumi’s incentive for embarking on the project that culminated in this book. There is no doubt that Bayoumi has a central question, being “What is it like to be young and Arab in the age of terror?” Yet he is able to keep this question in his pocket and let the youth, for once, lead the way.

─ Yasmine Farhang, Colorlines

 

It’s both illuminating and disheartening to read of the obstacles and misconceptions that the young people whom Bayoumi shadows must deal with as they navigate daily life. But there’s some small comfort in that the situation Bayoumi describes is not new — other ethnic and religious groups have withstood and survived such bias before, and in the end, we have faith that we’ll all get through this together, and come out stronger for it.

─ Pamela Miller, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

 

In his subjects, Bayoumi sees dark reflections of culture and politics, and he offers the dignity of their stories as antidotes to the rising tide of prejudice. Unlike profiles, which are by definition incomplete and caricatured, “stories,” Bayoumi writes, “have the capacity to convert a line drawing into flesh, to dislodge the power of the presumption and prejudice.” And this is Bayoumi’s task in How Does it Feel—to turn the line drawing of the American Arab into a person, and to have the reader recognize him as real, and worthy of the respect and equality promised in the American dream. In undertaking this mission, Bayoumi raises Du Bois’ unasked question and answers it, using the medium of the story to evoke the true power of the question.

─ Jessica Loudis, The Brooklyn Rail

 

Years from now, when historians look back on this decade and try to understand the first years of the so-called “war on terror,” any progress made will be determined by whether the narrative of the Muslim experience is included in this historiography. If it is, then Moustafa Bayoumi’s book How Does It Feel to Be A Problem? will be an indispensable guide.

─ Ali Moossavi, The Arab American News

 

Bayoumi’s decision to talk to Arabs from Brooklyn was a wise one as these stories are reflections from a group of people that not only have bared the brunt of discrimination, but call New York City their home and therefore, 9/11 affected them as it did most New Yorkers. By providing a book accessible to the masses, Bayoumi gives the Arab problem a very human face that other Americans can empathize with.

─ Bushra Burney, Media and Islam

 

“Bayoumi’s thorough and thoughtful portraits, combined with his judicious observations, make for a timely book. His effort offers us a window into a domain where major media outlets have previously promised much insight but provided only mirrors of their own prejudice.

─ M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, wiretapmag.org

 

“[Bayoumi’s] absorbing and affectionate book is a quintessentially American picture of 21-century citizens.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

“Bayoumi offers a revealing portrait of life for people who are often scrutinized but seldom heard from.”

Booklist, starred review

 

“Bayoumi poignantly portrays young people coming of age.”

Kirkus Reviews

 

“Wholly intelligent and sensitively-drawn, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? is an important investigation into the hearts and minds of young Arab Americans. This significant and eminently readable work breaks through preconceptions and delivers a fresh take on a unique and vital community. Moustafa Bayoumi’s voice is refreshingly frank, personable, and true.”

─ Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Origin, Crescent, and The Language of Baklava

 

“In relating the gripping personal stories of seven young Arab and Muslim Americans from Brooklyn in How Does it Feel to be a Problem?, Moustafa Bayoumi reveals the feelings and frustrations of the current era’s scapegoats, who can be demonized, profiled, and reviled without fear of sanction. His book shows both the dimensions of this new problem for American society, and the hopeful signs that this problem too can be overcome.”

─ Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Columbia University, and author of The Iron Cage

 

“Suspenseful storytelling and rich detail make How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? required reading for Americans yearning for knowledge about Islam and their Muslim neighbors in the United States. In a series of fascinating narratives about the horrors and conflicts young Muslim-Americans faced after 9/11, Moustafa Bayoumi has written a work that is passionate, yet measured, humorous, and above all enlightening.”

─ Geneive Abdo, author of Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11

 

“With deft prose, acute insight, and extensive reporting, Moustafa Bayoumi has produced truly engrossing portraits of young Muslim Americans about whom we usually hear only empty polemics. With a light touch, he gives voice to people who are referred to often and heard from rarely. The result is a sense of the tentative resistance of a besieged generation, as well as their determination to force America to be true to its promise even if it means confronting prejudice in its practice.”

─ Gary Younge, author of Stranger in a Strange Land: Encounters in the Disunited States and No Place Like Home