Moustafa Bayoumi: How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America



Out to be less of a limiting factor than I initially xpected Regardless these are important stories many of which I hadn t heard before No book could represent all of Arab Muslim life in America but this one does an ContamiNation excellent job of opening a window I appreciated all these stories BUT Yasmin s I felt her story should not have been included as it wasn t valid She signed her name to run for student body secretary When you sign your name to a document you agree to ALL the stipulations otherwise you should NOT sign your name One of the stipulations that as an officer you MUST attend ALL functions Her beliefs did not allow her to attend dances because she felt they were morally wrong In her opinion it was all about sexed up teenagers and outlandish music maybe I m old but teachers attended those dances in my time and no hanky panky was allowed so I think that was judgmental of her So she tries suing the school board when her father has her resign as the school said she must go The school would haveven allowed her to stay in a room separate of the dance so long as she was there Moral of the story Catering Because rules were meant to be broken just because she was Muslim Not cool What a weekend to finish this book My country s racist president signed an xecutive order banning people from 7 majority Muslim and Arab countries late last week and this weekend I sat down to finish the 7 stories of Rasha Lina Yasmin Sami Akram Omar and Rami Although these are stories from real people that happened between 20 and 10 years ago and they are so similar to what is ha all history is biography bayoumi shows us again and again and again with these only occasionally sentimental sometimes triumphant and very very often heartbreaking profiles of young arab america these portraits of brooklynites show a pervasive racism that i ll admit was profoundly unfamiliar to me profound not only because these documented injustices occurred close by down the block and up the hall but profound too because i d naively assumed that for the most part your cruder traditional variety of racist act had largely been replaced by the subtler slicker and insidious prejudices of a PC age turns out though to some the oldies are still the goodiesBut the traders at the xchange used to harass Sade constantly They would crumple paper into balls as if they were stones and throw them at him Go back to Palestine they d yell and laugh When he wouldn t laugh back they d retort with Hey we do it because we love you But Sade didn t buy it On other occasions they would scream Don t blow yourself up to him On uiet days someone would run right up to him and bang chests yelling Ba BOOM Then the other traders would fall over in hysterics Then one day shortly afterward the director called Sade into her office to tell him that he had to go To this day Sade is convinced that the termination order came from on high a cleansing of Arabs from New York s fragile cathedral of international commerce 192 3 For Palestinian kids in American high schools their keffiyahs matter unlike other kids they don t have a country to lay claim to so they hold tightly to their symbols Once when he was a junior one of his English teachers passed him in the stairwell while his hatta was on his shoulders She stopped above him peered down at the scarf and spit out the uestions to him What does that mean she said You hate all Jews He was stupefied Nah It s not like that he said It s just traditional He resented the idea that the hatta and by association his culture and thnic origin could be interpreted as hatred 127Before the attacks the American popular imagination was ssentially blind to Arabs and Muslims After the attacks however they have formally Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas entered American discourse around race and with a bang Black New Yorkers joke among themselves about their own reprieve from racial profilingxplained a New York Times article from October 2001 Even the language of racial grievance has shifted Overnight the cries about driving while black have become flying while brown 133 4an xcerpt from NEW YORK magazine. 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.

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The stories and the millions like it that go unnoticed and untold in this country are as important as the writing is horrendous At the beginning of Not Without a Fight every newssay Bayoumi feels the need to orient himself into the story where he was when he first saw so and so what so and so first looked like and it always Garden Bouquets and Beyond ends up reading like a bad noir detective talking about I don t know the tall drink of water with gams from here to chicago who walked into his office on a fridayvening with heavy mascara and a heavier secret drawn all over her face Not The Unseen Wonder evenxaggerating that much He constantly pauses in the narrative flow to make heavy handed and unnecessary descriptive asides that don t add to the story or The Management Bible even neutrally punctuate the story they just pull the reader out ofach character study reminding us of Bayoumi s awkward authorial presenceTwo stars for This was an interesting read on a topic that needs discussion in our society A strong point of this book is that the author provided accounts from a wide variety of Arab Americans Doing this helped to break the stereotype of Arab Americans that is common these days The accounts provided a good picture of the situations that Arab Americans face todayOne thing that I didn t like about the book so much is that there are uite a few reconstructed conversations that the author did not witness or which were not recorded These conversations rely a little too much on the memory of the interviewee While I trust the sources I can t help thinking in the back of my mind whether the conversations were remembered accurately or not If the reconstructed conversations were taken out I would rate this higherSomething to be aware of is that this book was written before US troops pulled out of Ira so recent developments in the Arab world are not covered in this book It not a bad thing but just something to be aware of when you read this It would be interesting to hear how the lives of those covered in this book have developed since publication Perhaps a new project for the author Some stories in this book are infuriating Some are inspiring And some are distinctly familiar But all of them are Zu schnell excellent and I recommend this book to any Muslim hating SOB and I know a few out there since it shows how Muslims are not so different from anybodylse Because of course they re not They re human And we re all in this together This book was assigned to me for a college course and I couldn t be grateful for it As a twenty something I ve seen a fair share of recent American tragedy the most horrific being September 11 2001 Yet the Sleepless (Bird of Stone, effects of tragedy have serious conseuences when an angry grieving society wants to place blame That blame has been and continues to be placed on the Arab and Muslim community creating a heavy and unjust burden for those residing in the supposed land of the free Reading through Bayoumi s stories of young Arab Americans who faced great injustices at the hands of a scared and ignorant society made me absolutely furious The young people whose stories Bayoumi recounts are all from New York City and rightfully so for the thought that such a multicultural and accepting city could reject anyone based on their culture or background is truly disheartening As a resident of Bergen County New Jersey I was shocked and horrified to find out that many local jails housed innocent people that were arrested and detained because they were seen as potential threats I m not Arab or Muslim but I am American as are the young people in these true stories and are millions of other people who are fed up with ridiculous racial stereotyping hatred and violence If this book doesn t open youryes you need to reevaluate what it means to be an American Dr Bayoumi was the keynote speaker at the Academic Convocation at Carlow University today Unfortunately I did not know about this in time to get a copy of the book to read which would be my preference But he is a fantastic speaker and spent a great deal of time answering uestions at the reception held afterwards Very articulate knowledgeable informed and ntertai. An ye opening look at how young Arab and Muslim Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the nemy Just over a century ago WEB Du Bois posed a probing uestion in his classic The Souls of Black Folk How does it feel to be a problem Now Moust.

Ning Any time you can get a bunch of freshmen students involved and actually want to ask uestions ven beyond what was reuired for their class assignment about your thoughts you get xtra points from meAlso he called Justin Trudeau hot I mean we all know this but it s funny to hear it from another CanadianI ll be getting a copy as soon as I can If it hadn t been necessary for me to read this all the way through then I would ve thrown this away and taken it to the garbage can OUTSIDEBeing forced to read a book for a university class is always guaranteed to leave a sour taste in your mouth However with ach new book I always stay optimistic and try to like itAnd with this little number I tried liking it so hard I might as well have been constipatedI do however give kudos to this book for addressing a serious issue all over the world and giving the Islam faith a personal touch since 99% of us are fed our beliefsThe book is divided into five mini stories all involving Arab Muslims living in the United States post 911 and their lives in that aftermath While the stories came from all corners and were uniue they were described in droning words dull as dirt and non beneficial to any part of the story Describing Yummy Supper every scene in backbreaking detail does not a good story makeI tried to give the book the benefit of the doubt by reading through and seeing if they wouldither be connected or signified Nope Not ven thatWhyBecause fuck logicThe writing style was so drab that it made this book practically unreadable The stories themselves were interesting but they shone about as brightly as a 1 watt lightbulb It s so literal that it hurtsPoint of view is also mixed up in some sections of the book specially when we approach the dreaded dialogue walls Conversations in Deep Listening each one are between three people or with no indication of who is saying whatHow manyFive including me But what about the student bodyNot sure yetDo you know who said what No GOOD This is an interesting book about the lives of young Muslims of Arab descent living in Brooklyn in the first few years after 911 If that sounds very specific well it is but despite what may initially seem to be a narrow focus the book seems to me to do a good job of addressing various aspects of Arab Muslim life in the US Each of its seven chapters is devoted to a different young person whose story unfolds over 30 odd pages Most of the chapters have a specific focus Rasha s story is about anntire family detained and held in prison for two months shortly after 911 although they were never charged with any crimes I am sorry to say that I was unaware of the post 911 mass arrests of Muslims in the US although they were hardly unknown ven drawing the attention of Amnesty International Sami s story is about a Muslim soldier going to war for the US in the Middle East Yasmin s is a story of a high school student who fights back against religious discrimination at her school Omar s is about mployment discrimination and Rami s the final story about a young person getting religion The author includes factual information about the various topics alongside the stories for context Of course giving Evolution, Me Other Freaks of Nature each story relatively few pages limits their depth to somextent in some cases the author focuses in on a particular aspect of someone s life while other chapters follow their subjects for a longer time but with less detailI found these stories interesting and the author s style accessible and there is a lot in here I didn t know For instance apparently the US government drew up plans in the 1980s to put Muslims in a concentration camp I am not sure how representative these young people and their families are of Arab American Muslims or if that was the author s goal Two of the families are Palestinian and two have one Palestinian parent which is not representative of the Middle Eastern population in the US generally The author is also strongly attached to writing about Brooklyn which seems to me uniue than representative of American life but nough of these folks have also lived in other places that that turned. Afa 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.