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I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,757 ratings  ·  471 reviews
One part Mari Andrew, one part Marjane Satrapi, I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir is a triumphant tale of self-discovery, a celebration of a family's rich heritage, and a love letter to American immigrant freedom. Malaka Gharib's illustrations come alive with teenage antics and earnest questions about identity and culture, while providing thoughtful insight into ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by Clarkson Potter Publishers
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Librarian Alicia Yes, I think this book is appropriate for middle school. I think high school students and older will be able to understand the many layers of her expe…moreYes, I think this book is appropriate for middle school. I think high school students and older will be able to understand the many layers of her experience, but still great for middle school.

Would be wonderful to use to discuss cultural identity, stereotypes, microaggressions, what it means to be an American, etc. lots of good discussion prompts.(less)

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Dave Schaafsma
NPR correspondent Malaka Gharib's graphic memoir about being mixed race. I work with a lot of students who similarly have mixed backgrounds, so this did not seem all that remarkable to me, but it was fine. She's the child of immigrants, a Catholic Filipino mother and a Muslim Egyptian father, grew up summering with Dad in Egypt, speaks both Tagalog and Arabic. Will appeal to folks who are similar mixed. A positive tale, maybe appealing to YA audiences more. ...more
Rod Brown
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Gharib creates a cute and amusing graphic memoir about being the child of immigrants, a Catholic Filipino mother and a Muslim Egyptian father, as she tracks her transition from desiring assimilation into white American culture, to feelings of rejection, to finding her own identity by acknowledging, integrating and melding all the diverse cultures that went into the creation of the woman she is today. Fun with a side of inspiring.

One quirk: Due to a limited color palette, apparently half of all p
Kate Olson
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent graphic memoir about the author’s experiences as the American-born daughter of immigrant parents from the Philippines and Egypt. Highly recommend!
Update. Here's the full review: https://bookishrealmreviews.blogspot....

Such an important memoir! It really looks at what it means to grow up in a multi-ethnic home. I loved that the author not only explored her own culture and up-brining, but also how living in America influenced thoughts that she had about herself and being a person of color. I’ll definitely be doing a full review on this so stay on the look out!
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
THIS BOOK. MY LITTLE MEXICAN/ITALIAN/AMERICAN HEART! If you couldn't guess, I adore this graphic novel. And no, not just because I worked on it (which was awesome to do) but because it has so much gosh darn heart and smarts. Often when I work on books I get to see bits and pieces of either text, images, or whatever the project is at the time. Working on this, while measuring or just spot checking, I couldn't stop myself from reading. A page here and there started to turn into a chapter until I h ...more
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
so cute!
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Malaka Gharib approaches uncomfortable issues in this short biographical piece.

First she shows how her parents look to America for the things that they want from it including their perception of the "American Dream" for their daughter. They don't understand or value the social and cultural freedom Malaka (their daughter) needs to achieve their dream. For Malaka freedom requires leaving behind many elements of the past her parents they hold dear.

At school Malaka meets other first generation Ame
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read a sample of this book a few months ago on The Nib and knew I was going to enjoy it. Malaka Gharib draws in a loose, expressive style with a limited color palette that perfectly fits with this short but satisfying memoir. Gharib tells how each of her parents came to California as immigrants; her mother from the Philippians, her father from Egypt. When they married and had their daughter, they thought they were on the road to the American Dream. But the marriage didn't last, and Malaka ende ...more
I love reading immigrant stories and children-of-immigrant stories. The art in here was fun and the palette is mostly red, white, and blue. Learning about the author, who is of Filipino-Egyptian descent, is engaging. Mostly my favorite thing about this story is the author's love and interactions with her family - it's sweet and touching. There is some discussion about micro-aggressions and the question "Where are you FROM from?" and while her analysis of these interactions is good, the draw here ...more
Elizabeth A
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
The author is a child of a Catholic Filipino mother and a Muslim Egyptian father.

Only in America! One of my fave things about this country is that it's not a punchline to a joke, but a thing that can happen here.

Representation matters, and this would be a powerful book for those who need one like it. This graphic memoir is about the joys and tribulations of being a mixed race/mixed religion child of immigrant parents. As it's written for a young adult audience, the comic gently explores some of
Bogi Takács
I liked it and wished it was longer. I appreciated the art - the bold choice of going with "American colors" worked for me and made the book pop - and also felt that the experimentation with format wasn't in-your-face but a seamless part of the whole. (The book has both a dress-up doll and a minizine. I thought that was cool :) )

I realized only after reading how much of a relief it was to read something focused on immigration to the US and parents, and not have it be about how embarrassed the au
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! What a book about growing up in a cultural / religious / nationality diverse family and how your own and other people’s views of diversity change and differ according to context and time .
Nothing raunchy in the book but the identity complexity probably better for middle grade and up. A very special book. Next to New Kid my favourite MS GN for this year
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
a beautiful, honest, and sweet tribute to her egyptian-filipino-american family :’) everyone should read!!!!
What a fabulous graphic memoir of growing up as the daughter of a Muslim-Egyptian father and Catholic-Filipino mother. Though they ultimately divorce and Malaka's father moves back to Egypt, both of their cultural and religious heritages influence Malaka's formative years. As she navigates an extremely diverse population in her California high school, Malaka finds herself obsessed with all things white -- and this book digs into how that influenced her future.

Insightful, funny, and full of hear
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An interesting graphic memoir (very sincere and funny in a quite a few places), really well written by Malaka Gharib, a young American woman with parents who immigrated from Filipins (mother) and Egypt (father). What a combination, Christian and Arab. The parents divorced, her father returned to Egypt and her mother brought her up, mortgaged their home to pay for Malaka's University... Still Malaka visited her father in Egypt every summer holiday, learned a lot of useful and entertaining things. ...more
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I wish I liked this graphic novel memoir more because it's about growing up mixed race in America but it didn't really grip me. ...more
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Gharib is the child of one parent who is Filipino-American, and one parent who is Egyptian. I loved reading Gharib's thoughts on the cultural differences between Filipino, Egyptian, and American cultures.

They illustrate their story in a style which matches what you see on the cover image. A limited color palette, lines with some whimsy. They vary their panel layout a lot, including sidebar pages titled things like "The Problem with "What Are You?"

Their personal story has a lot to teach lots of
Megan O'Hara
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very cute and sweet!
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-read
I loved this graphic novel. It was simply such a wonderful journey to take with Malaka Gharib. Her cartoon-ish illustrations were a delight - they both were playful and endearing as well as subtle in the ways in which they expressed nuance in emotions. I could sense the emotion, good, bad or ugly in the slight facial expressions, the gesticulations of the limbs, etc. 

In many ways, storytelling can be heavy. It delves into personal history, trauma, struggle, and resistance. That's why I love it.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A delightfully illustrated, yet straightforward memoir, about the narrator's mixed heritage and the sense of displacement she felt growing up in the U.S. with her Filipino mother and spending summers in Egypt with her dad. It was a quick read, and when I finished it, something amiss for me. I found the author's heritage unique, but nothing new was explored in her book. There wasn't anything necessarily surprising or profound about the narrative she told. The sense of feeling neither here or ther ...more
Lady H
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
This was a cute graphic memoir about a half-Filipino, half-Egyptian girl growing up. It's very wholesome and adorable and hilarious, and as an Egyptian-American myself I really related to various aspects of this!

At first I thought I would loathe the art, which is kind of childish and cartoonish, but I think it fits the tone of the story really well. Plus, it's more complex than it seems at first glance; Gharib manages to convey little nuances of expression through tiny artistic details. It's qui
The story Gharib tells is an important one, but the graphics don’t lend themselves to the story. Simple line drawings and maybe 3 colours used throughout... I don’t know if the writer or the publishers are trying to make a point about race and colour by removing colours from the story. No clue. It’s mind-numbing and took me, what, 2-3 weeks to read? Graphic novels shouldn’t take that long. I’m giving this three stars, but really it’s a two star disappointment.
Tara Ethridge
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm in love with these graphic novel memoirs that appeal to older readers as they are raw and honest and so beautifully done. Malaka is half Filipino and half Egyptian and is also somewhat obsessed with white culture. So much identity searching woven into this, and I adored it. So relevant and so relatable. Middle and high would love it. ...more
Mary Lee
Required reading for every non-immigrant. Especially the chart on microaggressions.
Very, very good! I enjoyed this graphic novel memoir immensely! This would be a wonderful addition to a high school-late middle school unit studying real stories of culture, immigration, & immigrant families in the U.S.
Laura Gardner
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this graphic memoir! (Bonus: Made me want to make zines w my students, too!)
As another “whitewashed” Filipino American, who didn’t fit in with other Filipinos and the white people I thought were so cool, and who also went to Cerritos High School, Malaka Gharib’s graphic memoir I WAS THEIR AMERICAN DREAM really resonated with me. Things like: being called a Twinkie for being an Asian who liked “white people things” and struggling to identify with my family’s culture and somehow finding a way to make it feel like mine too. ⁣

Gharib shares her story in such a funny, heartf
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel, ya
I liked it and thought it had many things going for it. Most importantly --that the main character is relatable and funny which will go a long way with the teen audience it is intended for. I quite enjoyed reading about her upbringing.

However, I loathe the term "microaggression" (also trigger, white privilege, implicit bias, you get me) so when she does a page with a "microaggressions" bingo card --I just had to sigh.

In a different format, I would've liked to see her delve more into the fact tha
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick Klagge
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I lol'd quite a bit and showed several funny parts to my partner before she had a chance to read it.

I thought Gharib did a great job mixing humor with more serious observations about growing up as a person of color in America. Her style sort of reminds me of Roz Chast, for a new generation.

As a white man married to a Filipina-American, several parts of the story rang a bell for me! I'm also proud to say that I knew 9 of 11 of the Tagalog flash card words in the book (and also, learned that ther
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