Shared read author inspires Rider community

By Gabriela Flis 

Shared Read author Moustafa Bayoumi speaking to the Rider community on Oct. 2.

As part of Rider’s Shared Read Program, renowned author Moustafa Bayoumi visited students on Oct. 2 to discuss the meaning and ideas behind his book, “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?” 

His novel focuses on young Arab-Americans in Brooklyn who faced discrimination post-9/11.  

Currently a professor of English and comparative literature at Brooklyn College, Bayoumi travels to different universities in hopes of spreading light on the modern day discrimination that Arab-Americans face.

To kick off the night, freshman biology major Grace Lee, winner of the Shared Read essay contest, introduced Bayoumi with a brief biography and explanation of her own opinion about the book. 

Bayoumi took the stage next to discuss his novel.

“I know what it is like to be a young person and I know what it is like to be a minority,” said Bayoumi. “I know what it was like to grow up as a young Arab-Muslim Canadian kid.” 

Throughout the course of the event, Bayoumi discussed seven chilling stories from his novel and recounted his own childhood experiences that helped him create his book. 

“After 9/11 happened, I was in New York City and I just thought that this must be such a devastating situation,” he said. “It was already difficult and it was already a kind of test for yourself, like, who am I going to be as a minority? And now [after] adding this growing hostility around you.” 

According to Bayoumi, the most important aspect was obtaining young voices he believed could help change the world. 

“I am hoping that people can connect to the stories on that very human level of trying to understand their own lives through the lives of others,” he said.

Rider’s Shared Read Program revolves around stimulating books that help inspire students to better themselves and the world around them. 

Through Bayoumi’s presentation, Rider students were offered a new perspective on the world. 

“The event was very nice, and, overall very easy for anyone to understand,” said Hamna IIlyas, a freshman business administration major. “[Bayoumi] went into the history of Islam and America, bringing everything together to help the audience develop an understanding of his viewpoint. It was interesting that he mentioned the statistic that Islamophobia rises during every election and not after a terrorist attack.”

Students were not the only ones excited to meet with the author.

 “I thought it was great,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen said. “It was very compelling [with] a lot of really great information that I wasn’t even aware of that I think is important for us to hear.”

The Shared Read Program has been very beneficial to Rider students in encouraging thinking outside of the box. 

“The shared read is something I am very proud of,” said Fredeen. “I see students walking around with the books.” 

Fredeen mentioned that having Bayoumi speak to the community proves that the Shared Read Program is successful in gaining student participation and respect. 

“I’ve said this many times, but I believe the hallmark of an educated person is the ability to sit down, read, understand and discuss a book that addresses complex capacious social issues,” said Fredeen. “And I’m really glad the community has embraced the program the way that it has.”

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