Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 373
In How Does It Feel to Be a Problem, Moustafa Bayoumi follows the lives of 7 young Arab-Americans in post-9/11 Brooklyn, NY. The book highlights the racism, discrimination, islamophobia, and government oppression that numerous Arab-Americans face in the United States, particularly in the years following the 9/11 attacks. The first chapter covers the narrative of Rasha, a Syrian-American who, along with her family, was imprisoned for three months following an unjustified FBI raid. These raids against innocent Arab-Americans in the aftermath of 9/11 were not isolated incidents, and were, in fact, alarmingly common infringements of human rights committed against Arab-Americans by the US government. Rasha describes how the unjust imprisonment has continued to haunt her and her family. The second chapter focus on a Christian Arab-American man named Sami who had joined the marine corps before 9/11. Sami worked in the military as a translator during the war against Iraq and Afghanistan. Sami describes how he was both ostracized from the Arab community in the United States due to his role in the war, as well as from the rest of society due to his ethnic identity. The third chapter follows the struggle of a high school student named Yasmin who faces discrimination and racism in her school from students as well as the administration. Chapter 4 describes the internal struggle that college student Akram faces as he navigates his life on a campus that is increasingly hostile towards him. Akram faces so much racism and unjust treatment that he describes considering moving out of America. Chapter 5 follows the story of Lina, who struggles to find her place in the world as an Iraqi-American. Like Akram, Lina no longer sees a life for herself in the United States after experiencing so much racism and discrimination post 9/11. The sixth chapter of the book describes the life of Omar, whose successful work at Al-Jazeera has resulted in him having difficulty finding media work in the US due to workplace discrimination. The seventh chapter follows the life of Rami, who chooses to find solace in an unjust world after his father is also imprisoned because of unjust FBI raids through practicing and advocating for an understanding of Islam in the US and through bridging the worlds between Islam and secular society.