2009 Common Reading Initiative

Overview & Guide

About the Book

This year's common book is How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, by Moustafa Bayoumi. The book weaves together the stories of seven young Arab American men and women who live in Brooklyn.

In its review of the book, Publisher's Weekly writes: "..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].'"

You can download a pdf version of the book guide here

About the Common Reading Initiative

As a first-year student, you will be participating in the college’s Common Reading Initiative, a program of lectures, discussions, exhibits, films and concerts that complement the book.

History of the Initiative

We’ve designed the program to introduce you to the academic and intellectual culture of the college through a common reading experience. A committee of faculty, staff and current JSC students met this spring to choose a book for the entire incoming class to read during the summer. This fall, you will have many opportunities to share and compare ideas about the common book. Your Peer Orientation Leaders, as well as many faculty and staff, will also have read the book, providing a broad base for discussion and integration into the JSC community.