How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

by

Moustafa Bayoumi

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Lina Character Analysis

The woman at the center of Bayoumi’s fifth chapter, an Iraqi American who grows up in Maryland, Brooklyn, and Colorado but, by the time of the book’s publication, lives with her husband in Virginia. She grows up in a largely African-American neighborhood where she feels understood and accepted by her peers. When her father gets a prestigious job, however, Lina’s family moves to a wealthier white neighborhood, where she feels ostracized at school and starts rebelling against her parents: she smokes, wears makeup, skips school, runs away from home, and has a secret boyfriend. Her family sends her to Iraq—twice—to try to reform her. Both times, she returns more connected to her heritage but no less rebellious, and after her mother Maisa suddenly dies, she leaves home for good. She ends up back in Brooklyn and meets an Iraqi named Wisam online, whom she later learns was a spy working for both Saddam Hussein and the FBI. She joins and quits the military, then gradually grows to love Laith, her fiancé and her stepmother’s brother, whom she moves to join in Virginia. Lina’s story is the classic tale of an immigrant struggling to reconcile two cultures—that of the homeland she scarcely remembers halfway across the world and that of her new home country, the United States, which is also busy destroying her old country.

Lina Quotes in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

The How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? quotes below are all either spoken by Lina or refer to Lina. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? published in 2008.
Lina Quotes

What happens when your homeland is in the process of disintegrating in front of your eyes? What do you do, especially when Iraq's turmoil has always hovered in the background of your life? Perhaps you do what immigrants to the United States and their children have done for generations. You build your own destiny from your American home while keeping one eye open to that which has been lost. And while your American life largely takes over, you still live somewhere between geographies, as you have for most of your life. It's just that the in-between has become harder than ever to locate.

Related Characters: Moustafa Bayoumi (speaker), Lina, Laith
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lina Character Timeline in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

The timeline below shows where the character Lina appears in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lina
Arab American Identities Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...no ice cream.” It is illegal, as the nation is “choking under sanctions” in 1996. Lina is seventeen, and has been sent back from the U.S. on a one-way ticket by... (full context)
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
...sugar, “ice cream became simply unsustainable.” So, for good measure, the regime outlaws it. Although Lina enjoys seeing her family and grows close to one of her cousins, she can see... (full context)
Arab American Identities Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Bayoumi meets Lina in 2006 at a Bay Ridge café, where she smokes and smiles with a rebellious... (full context)
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
Arab American Identities Theme Icon
In 1979, Lina is born in Kuwait City; four years later, the family moves to the United States... (full context)
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
Nevertheless, Lina manages to befriend various students from different groups by the time she gets to high... (full context)
Faith, Tradition, and Islam Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sophomore year, Lina gets into an argument with Maisa because she wants to go to the homecoming dance;... (full context)
Faith, Tradition, and Islam Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Lina starts skipping class, which is the only way to see her friends. As her grades... (full context)
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Lina stays at friends’ houses during her runaway attempts and climbs out of her locked window... (full context)
Faith, Tradition, and Islam Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
In Virginia, Lina grows close to the 22-year-old Looma, the family friends’ daughter, who even lets her drink.... (full context)
Faith, Tradition, and Islam Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
After over a year, Maisa finally comes to bring Lina home from Iraq. She is shocked by her daughter’s new religious clothing, though Lina soon... (full context)
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
When she returns to the United States with Maisa, Lina’s family is living in Colorado, where her father works for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.... (full context)
Arab American Identities Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
One day, Lina goes to Denver and never comes back. She stays with the only person she knows,... (full context)
Arab American Identities Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Lina increasingly feels an itch to return to the East Coast, preferably to Maryland. When her... (full context)
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
In mid-2001, Lina’s father hastily marries a woman from a family of dissidents-turned-refugees torn apart by Saddam’s regime.... (full context)
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
One Friday in 2003, the FBI comes to Lina’s house and politely interrogates her about Rana, Wisam, and their other brother Ra’ed, who is... (full context)
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
...and the family’s other brother are deported, but “Wisam and Ra’ed were not so lucky.” Lina remembers having been stopped for more than 20 minutes by the police when she was... (full context)
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Justice, Activism, and the Future of American Democracy Theme Icon
Lina moves to Virginia, where she continues working at a restaurant and going to community college.... (full context)
Arab American Identities Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Justice, Activism, and the Future of American Democracy Theme Icon
In July of 2006, Lina and Laith finally marry, and she moves to be with him in Virginia. Their marriage... (full context)
Arab American Identities Theme Icon
Faith, Tradition, and Islam Theme Icon
Growing Up and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Justice, Activism, and the Future of American Democracy Theme Icon
...is often seen as central to the experience of exile, this is not so for Lina, who “simply no longer recognizes the [Iraqi] nation she sees on television,” with its internal... (full context)