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First Year Reading Experience (FYRE)

How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?

The first year reading experience (FYRE) at Salem State University connects new students to the university community through a shared reading experience, welcoming them to a culture that values the thoughtful discussion of ideas. On opening day (the day before classes begin in the fall), first year students will meet with faculty, librarians, administrators, staff, and alumni for a conversation about the selected book. Many professors incorporate the book and its themes into first year courses and events/speakers are planned throughout the entire academic year.

2016-2017 SELECTION  

How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi

Just over a century ago, W.E.B. Du Bois posed a probing question in his classic The Souls of Black Folk: “How does it feel to be a problem?” he asked. Today, Arab and Muslim Americans, the newest minorities in the American imagination, are the latest “problem” of American society, and their answers to Du Bois’s question increasingly define what being American means today.

In a wholly revealing portrait of a community that lives next door and yet a world away, Moustafa 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.

Moustafa 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.  - from moustafabayoumi.com/books

We invite you to explore some of the following resources connected to the book and it's themes:

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Faculty, alumni and staff interested in serving as discussion facilitators on opening day should fill out this quick survey.  

If you are an upperclass student who would like to participate as a discussion facilitator and help with convocation and the rest of opening day, please fill out this form

FYRE is proudly sponsored by first year experience, academic affairs and Chartwells.

To request accommodations, please contact the disability services office at 978.542.6217 or disability-services@salemstate.edu.