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Author Moustafa Bayoumi discusses Arab experience

Above: Students take notes during Moustafa Bayoumi’s lecture Tuesday evening on the experience of young Arabs living in the United States after 9/11. All writing classes read his book as part of the One Book, One University program, which includes a series of lectures throughout the semester. / photo by Mitchell Aleman

Kevin Parada
Staff Writer

Moustafa Bayoumi, the award-winning author of “How Does it Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” spoke about the hardships that were endured by seven young Arab-Americans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Tuesday in Morgan Auditorium.

Approximately 175 students and faculty members attended the evening lecture, part of the “One Book, One University” series.

Bayoumi, a writer and editor for Middle East Report and an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College in New York, discussed the experience of those profiled in his book.

Rasha was jailed along with her family for being Arab; Sami was serving in Iraq as a Marine at the time of the terrorist attacks; Omar was doing an internship with Al-Jazeera, which kept him from finding the media job he wanted; Rami had been a typical Muslim kid growing up in Brooklyn.

Others profiled in the book included Lina, who is still connected to her home country and travels back and forth between the United States and Iraq, and Yasmin, who fought hard to maintain her place in student government at school.

“I focused on Arab-Americans but concentrated on Arab-Muslims,” Bayoumi said.

As part of the One Book, One University program, all writing classes this fall are reading Bayoumi’s book.

Hence Tuesday’s audience was particularly engaged.

After an intensive discussion about the book, Bayoumi turned the microphone over to the audience for questions.

Bayoumi clarified for the inquisitive audience his method for choosing which stories to include in his book.

He said he chose stories that dealt with some of the most pressing issues for the Arab community, which had to do with detainment and deportation.

“He spent a lot of time on the research and it really showed because of how passionate he seemed to be about the people that he included in the book,” said Efrain Vasquez, a junior political science major from Cal Poly Pomona.

“He was interesting and had a lot to say and his opinions about the world are accurate and to some, shocking,” freshman political science major Samir Mahboob said.

“How Does it Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America” won the 2008 American Book Award and the 2009 Arab American Book Award.

Kevin Parada can be reached at

Moustafa Bayoumi speaks to a full house in Morgan Auditorium on Tuesday. The award-winning author of “How Does it Feel to be a Problem?” shared the experiences he and others had in dealing with stereotypes of Arab-Americans. / photo by Mitchell Aleman

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