cover image How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America

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

Moustafa Bayoumi, . . Penguin Press, $24.95 (290pp) ISBN 978-1-59420-176-9

According to Bayoumi (The Edward Said Reader ), for most of its history, American society has paid little attention to its Arab and Muslim citizens—until the events of September 11 thrust millions of uninvolved people into a very unfavorable limelight, often forcing them to answer for the monstrous deeds of others. The author profiles seven young people for whom that day's horrors were not just a shared national tragedy but the beginning of a struggle to define themselves, as they began to face pervasive workplace discrimination and government surveillance, cultural misunderstanding and threats of violence. In many ways, his absorbing and affectionate book is a quintessentially American picture of 21st-century citizens “absorbing and refracting all the ethnicities and histories surrounding [them].” However, the testimonies from these young adults—summary seizures from their homes, harassment from strangers, being fired for having an Arab or Muslim name—have a weight and a sorrow that is “often invisible to the general public.” Says Akram, a Palestinian-American college student, “I love the diversity of this country, I really do, but the whole politics.... America's not America anymore to me.” (Aug.)