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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 691

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America is a 2001 nonfictional book written by Moustafa Bayoumi. It depicts the lives of seven young Arab Americans from Brooklyn, who have been given a chance to share their stories about the daily struggles, discrimination, and...

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How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America is a 2001 nonfictional book written by Moustafa Bayoumi. It depicts the lives of seven young Arab Americans from Brooklyn, who have been given a chance to share their stories about the daily struggles, discrimination, and injustice they face just because they are Arab Americans. These struggles have intensified after the tragic events of 9/11. The book received generally positive reviews, mainly about its honest, detailed, and captivating narrative and its intimate and authentic portrayal of the characters.

How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? covers a variety of themes, such as racism, discrimination, injustice, religion, social (in)justice and equality, identity, and democracy. Thus, it contains a plethora of important and meaningful quotes. Here are some examples:

Far away from the headlines of the moment, young Arab and Muslim Americans face a volatile mixture of fear, suspicion, curiosity, and misunderstanding . . . the principles currently at stake revolve not only around issues of full equality and inclusion, but fundamentally around the consequences that American foreign policy has on domestic civil rights.

This book gives a voice to the people who are rarely heard and equips them with a platform to talk about societal issues that are, more often than not, ignored.

It seems barely an exaggeration to say that Arab and Muslim Americans are constantly talked about but almost never heard from. The problem is not that they lack representations but that they have too many. And these are all abstractions. Arabs and Muslims have become a foreign-policy issue, an argument on the domestic agenda, a law-enforcement priority and a point of well-meaning concern. They appear as shadowy characters on terror television shows, have become objects of sociological inquiry, and get paraded around as puppets for public diplomacy . . . They are floating everywhere in the virtual landscape of the national imagination, as either villains of Islam or victims of Arab culture. Yet as in the postmodern world in which we live, sometimes when you are everywhere, you are really nowhere.

This gives insight into the lives of the Arab Americans who have been subjected to racial and religious stereotyping and discrimination post-9/11, when many of them had to suffer in almost all aspects of life.

When I was young, the system told me to stand up and fight for what I believe in. While now I am being told to do the exact opposite, instead I should give up what I believe in for some rules and regulations. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for what he believed in and gave up his life for it. I too am taking that same stand by giving up my position to defend what I believe in. (Yasmin)

If there's anything that I've discovered out of this whole thing, it's that people take for granted being a citizen of this country. They don't see the importance of having a privilege like that. I've been in this country for eighteen years, and I'm working hard, and I'm qualified, but I've missed all these opportunities. I feel like it should be a lot easier than this. It's not fun. It's not fun at all. (Rasha)

Finally, How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? is a book about self-discovery and identity—about figuring out who you really are and where you belong. Thus, it carries an important massage: in order to have a fully functional, prosperous, and well-structured society, every community must be built on the concepts of justice, equality, and acceptance.

What happens when your homeland is in the process of disintegrating in front of your eyes? What do you do, especially when Iraq's turmoil has always hovered in the background of your life? Perhaps you do what immigrants to the United States and their children have done for generations. You build your own destiny from your American home while keeping one eye open to that which has been lost. And while your American life largely takes over, you still live somewhere between geographies, as you have for most of your life. It's just that the in-between has become harder than ever to locate. (Lina)

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