I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir

Clarkson Potter. Apr. 2019. 160p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9780525575115.
Gr 7 Up–In this graphic memoir, Gharib recounts her experiences growing up as a first-generation American. Her father was Egyptian and her mother Filipina, and she often felt like an outsider, not only in her California hometown but also within her own family. She details her struggles balancing vastly different religious expressions, social customs, and language barriers. Gharib attended a high school with a diverse student body, where she encountered other first-generation Americans, and attempted to talk about her ethnicity by asking other teens of color the well-meaning but misguided question, “What are you?” As a young woman of color, the author grappled with her complicated feelings about the overwhelmingly white images in the media. As an adult she married a white man from the South and shared her culture in an accepting relationship. Ultimately, she concludes that cultural heritage is a crucial part of identity. Gharib details her transformation in simple, self-deprecating cartoons. She peppers the narrative with interactive elements like microaggressions bingo, mini-zine pages, and a paper doll sequence that highlights her attempts to literally wear different aspects of white culture as she navigated her adult life.
VERDICT This engaging memoir is an uplifting ode to Gharib’s bicultural background, her immigrant parents, and her road to self-acceptance. An essential purchase.

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