Moustafa Bayoumi, Author of "How Does It Feel to Be a Problem," to Visit USC Upstate Campus

October 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

A thought-provoking book is selected annually for first-year students at the University of South Carolina Upstate to read as part of the PREFACE program, which offers a range of activities centered on the book’s theme from student affairs to academic departments.

“The intent of this series of programs is to help USC Upstate first-year students make connections to each other and to the University, to practice skills that contribute to success in college, and to discuss how a deeper understanding of a shared reading can inform the way we make personal decisions and influence public policy today,” said Dr. Monika Shehi, director of composition and coordinator of the PREFACE program.

This year students have been reading Moustafa Bayoumi’s book How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America. Bayoumi will visit the campus on Wednesday, October 12 where he will give a keynote address at 7:00 p.m. in the Campus Life Center Ballroom.

In a wholly revealing portrait of a community that lives next door and yet a world away, Bayoumi introduces us to the individual lives of seven twentysomething men and women living in Brooklyn, home to the largest number of Arab Americans in the United States. Through telling real stories about young people in Brooklyn, Bayoumi jettisons the stereotypes and clichés that constantly surround Arabs and Muslims and allows us instead to enter their worlds and experience their lives. We meet Rasha, Sami, Lina, Akram, Yasmin, Omar and Rami and discover through them often-unseen entanglements: government surveillance and detentions, workplace discrimination, warfare in their countries of origin, threats of vigilante violence, the infiltration of spies and informants into their midst, and the disappearance of friends or family.

Their richly told stories connect us to their quests for meaning, from falling in love to finding God, and we feel their triumphs and watch them stumble along the way. As their lives turn on the winds of global conflicts, these young Arab Americans manage the major issues of our day while forging the contours of our future society. What the stories in this book prove is that the fight for equality and the commitment to compassion are as necessary today as ever, if not more so.

Bayoumi immerses his reader in a reality at once inconceivable and achingly familiar to unveil an unforgettable American story of race, religion, and civil rights, full of struggle, promise and hope.

Bayoumi is an award-winning writer and professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He completed his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

For more information, contact Dr. Monika Shehi, director of composition and coordinator of the PREFACE program, at 864-503-5972 or To learn more about the PREFAACE program, visit