I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir is a humorous look at when cultures clash and you are the result.
Malaka Gharib’s coming of age story shows how life is a balancing of yourself. And, finally finding your place where you have all your pieces comfortable.
And love can happen anyplace. Even to an Egyptian Muslim and a Filipino Catholic. And a year after marrying they can have their American Dream: a girl named Malaka (like Monica with an L). Yet, clashes happen. Divorces happen. And fathers move back to Egypt and marry a lovely Muslim woman. And mothers have another daughter. And families love to eat. No matter the culture.
Gharib shows how her Filipino-Christian and Egyptian-Muslim worlds clash, mesh together and make her a lover of “weird” foods and think sandwiches for lunch odd. She studies business, loves art, marries a nice Southern-Baptist boy (and has a Big Fat Filipino Muslim Southern Baptist wedding) travels to Egypt, sees the world through the eyes of a child and later an adult, but always growing and finding a new part of herself.
I can see why this book is not getting the attention of other memoirs. There is no sex, drugs or rock-n-roll (okay, there is all of that, but done subtly). There are a few recipes, but it is not a cookbook memoir; yes, she has (literally) front row seats to the Israeli-Arab conflict, but there is none of the politics surrounding it. There is little meat; just a lot of rice. Literally. A meal is not complete without rice. And that is what the book is about. Food, family and just living. Yes, there are bumps (she feels often the “token brown person” at work) and she learns about her own racism (asking someone “What are you” is not always the best way to get to know someone), yet things are smooth with little controversy, action or drama-drama. We see two cultures through the eyes of a girl who is part of both, plus is American so she needs to not “white wash” herself, be a “good girl” (which means different things in her parents’ cultures) and still be herself.