The student news site of Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

The Independent

The student news site of Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

The Independent

The student news site of Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

The Independent

“The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store”: American Progress
“The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store”: American Progress
Abby Edwards, Scoop Writer • May 3, 2024

In “The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride, It is no secret that Chicken Hill is a place of struggle, and in 1930, Jews and African Americans had to depend...

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Two Memorable Memoirs: “I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir” and “It Won’t Always Be Like This: A Graphic Memoir” by Malaka Gharib

Source: Goodreads.com
Source: Goodreads.com
Source: Goodreads.com


It is always a good time to work towards achieving your Goodreads yearly reading goal, and picking up a graphic novel may seem like the perfect way to easily add a few more books to your “Read” list. However, do not be fooled by a short word count; graphic novels are complex works that allow for unique and intricate storytelling. 

Graphic novels include immense benefits like fast-paced storytelling that relies heavily on visuals to keep readers engaged. Further, by allowing for concise text, it forces readers to explore a new way of consuming stories, making us better readers all around. 

Supporting this idea, Meryl Jaffe, an instructor at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, explains for the School Library Journal, “‘Research shows that our brains process and store visual information faster and more efficiently than verbal information…Pairing [graphic novels] with traditional prose texts is an excellent means of promoting verbal skills and memory.’”

Recently, a new trend has been surfacing: graphic memoirs. According to Penguin Random House Publishing, “visual books fit perfectly with the varied reading trends of the last couple of years.” Graphic novels, previously a niche genre, have transcended into the mainstream as memoirs. 

So, in this growing genre, which graphic novels should you add to your shelf? “I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir” and “It Won’t Always Be Like This: A Graphic Memoir” are two graphic memoirs written by author and journalist Malaka Gharib, that tell the story of an Egyptian-Fillipina girl as she navigates growing up and finding her place in the world. These novels are the perfect mix of entertaining and thought-provoking. 

Both novels chronicle Gharib’s childhood into young adulthood. She depicts her life as a child born to a Filipina mother and an Egyptian father and leading a cross-cultural life as a daughter of immigrants in the United States. The novels narrate Gharib spending her summers in Egypt with her father and the school year with her mother in their small town in California. 

“I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir” focuses on Gharib’s life in the States. She illustrates her attempts to be the best daughter she can be for her mother and large extended family, working hard in school and at home. Gharib attends an extremely diverse high school. However, when she attends college in New York, she finds herself facing racism from her white peers. Gharib writes about experiencing microaggressions and navigating through this almost entirely white space, which transcends into her post-grad workplace. 

By the end of the novel, though, Gharib finds peace in her identity and describes the culturally diverse life that she has with her husband, which honors all parts of their unique identities. 

Gharib’s other graphic memoir, “It Won’t Always Be Like This,” explores the summers Gharib spent with her father in Egypt during her childhood and adolescence. This novel focuses on Gharib’s complex relationship with her family, specifically her step-mother Hala. Gharib shares her internal dialogue during her trips through real diary entries. She writes about her feelings of not belonging in Egypt and within her dad’s family, which capture some of the main themes of the book. 

Gharib also delves into themes of adolescence, depicting what it is like to transition from girlhood to womanhood with the pressures from society to fit in and conform to a stereotypical standard. In these moments of the book, we see Gharib’s spunky teen personality come to life, like doodles of Gharib singing along to her favorite songs or narrating her distinctive fashion choices. 

“I Was Their American Dream” and “It Won’t Always Be Like This” both showcase Gharib’s story with honesty and beauty. Gharib discusses themes of race, cultural identity and growing up. Gharib is an excellent storyteller and draws readers in with her compelling story and personality, as she lovingly shares her experiences and culture with the reader while depicting herself growing up.

 “I Was Their American Dream” and “It Won’t Always Be Like This” by Malaka Gharib are essential reads for those exploring a new genre or interested in a heartfelt and poignant memoir. 

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About the Contributor
Emma Pekkarinen
Emma Pekkarinen, Editor in Chief

My name is Emma Pekkarinen and I am a senior and one of the Co-Editors in Chief this year. When I’m not writing articles for The Independent you can find me reading, baking, or enjoying a walk outside. At South I also am a member of Speech Team and Model United Nations. 

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