Crossing the BLVD - Brothers from Egypt own restaurants in Astoria

Apr 18, 2011
by: 15NOELS

America is a nation of immigrants and everyone who came here has a story. People tell stories about they came here, when they came here, and what affect this new country had on them and how it changed over the course of time. Crossing the BLVD takes stories from people of different races and religions. The book tells stories from immigrants that came from all around the world, even some that were born here, but have ancestors from different nations. In this book, everyone is the author because each adult and teenager is telling the story from his or her point of view and each reflects on the journey from his or her own mind.

The section of the book that I read was “The Brothers Rahman/el Sayed.” This section is about two brothers named Ali and Moustafa. They are both Egyptian immigrants and both own restaurants in Astoria. They each tell separate stories and there views are sometimes different and sometimes similar. Both brothers took something with them when they came to America, a talent that is used creatively to somehow make a living in New York.They both tell their own feelings about moving to America and what they thought of the country and the Americans.

Ali and Moustafa had a lot of different views about America, especially New York. One topic that they did have in common, though, was discrimination. Both of them talked about how in the Middle East there was a lot of separation due to religion of the race of people. Even in America, there are sometimes acts of oppression. Part of the reason that they came to America was because they were tired of oppression, but even here, Americans have views that we are supposed to look a certain way, act a certain way, and know English. I think this topic is important because discrimination has been a universal problem for a very long time and it still goes on today. Some people don’t even realize that they stereotype and it’s very disappointing that we can’t accept each other for who we are. We were never meant to be the same and we weren’t all supposed to have the same religion. My dad used to tell me that it was all about power and wanting to feel like the dominant race. An example of this is a dictatorship; no one else rules but that one person. I never understood why man’s mind thinks that way, but another point of view could help me understand a little bit more.

Ali’s point of view is that there really should be no discrimination between us. It’s just stupid and unnecessary. We, as nations, are so caught up in how we look that we expect everyone to look the same way and if they don’t, that’s just their loss. Ali thinks that we’re better off if we all just look the same or have the same names so that no one could define one another for their names, their looks, or their personality. “It’s illogical to even have names. We should have number. Yes! Or dots maybe…What is race? What is color? Stay in the sun, your skin gets darker. Religions. We should get over this stuff already. We can’t exist without each other” (pg. 188-189).

Moustafa’s point of view is very similar to Ali’s, but there is less to say about his point of view. His view of integration is shown through art is his restaurant. He uses a little piece of every race in is designs and every kind of race is welcome there. “Outside I put the Greek columns and the Islamic window with a lotus flower and the pyramid from the Pharaohs’ time, and the eye of the Horus and the eye of the dragon” (pg.168). This represents combined cultures and this should be done more often to make every race feel welcome.

My point of view is generally the same as these two brothers, but I mainly agree with Ali. We find all these ways to discriminate people: race, color, religion, culture, money etc. and we do it deliberately. My dad would always tell me that it’s because someone wants to come out on top all the time: power. What if our names were numbers or dots? “Hi my name is 1” or “How are you…” Would it really make a difference, considering we all are very similar? Ali is right; we can’t exist without each other. If we rely on each other why can’t we respect each other and their way of life?

I’ve never been a witness to stereotyped behavior, but I have heard about it all the time. It upsets me deeply that we can’t peacefully co-exist. Animals do a better job! I also agree with Ali on his view of what race and color is. There are two definitions: the true one and the one that we twist to oppress people. I have had experiences where I was looked down on/ talked about because of who I am, but that shouldn’t matter. I’m an American, just like everyone else. I never chose to look this way, but I’m very happy all the same to be who I am; Ali& Moustafa make a good point of that.


Lehrer, Warren, and Judith Sloan. Crossing the Blvd: Strangers, Neighbors, and Aliens in a New America. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2003. Print.