Thursday, February 21, 2019

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Malaka Gharib

by Mike Rhode

Next month, I'll be moderating a Nerds in NoMa panel on March 12th on "Comic Converts: The World of Comic Illustrators in D.C.” One of the attendees will be Malaka Gharib, and I must confess to not being familiar with her work previously, even though she has a book I Was Their American Dream coming out soon from Penguin Random House which describes it thusly:

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 the lives of modern immigrants and the generation of millennial children they raised. Malaka’s upbringing will look familiar to anyone who grew up in the pre-internet era, but her particular story is a heartfelt tribute to the American immigrants who have invested their future in the promise of the American dream. The daughter of parents with unfulfilled dreams themselves, Malaka navigates her childhood chasing her parents’ ideals, learning to code-switch between her family’s Filipino and Egyptian customs, adapting to white culture to fit in, crushing on skater boys, and trying to understand the tension between holding onto cultural values and trying to be an all-American kid. I Was Their American Dream is at once a journal of growing up and a reminder of the thousands of immigrants who come to America in search for a better life for themselves and their children.

Sounds good, right? Here's her short bio, grabbed from Catapult, where she has a cute slice of life travel story, Special Request:
Malaka Gharib is a journalist at NPR. She is the author of "I Was Their American Dream," a graphic memoir (Clarkson Potter, April 2019) about being Filipino-Egyptian-American. She is the founder of The Runcible Spoon, a food zine, and the co-founder of the D.C. Art Book Fair. She lives in a rowhouse with her husband in Washington, D.C. 

She's answering our usual questions before the talk.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Comics and spot illustrations, also flash installations and little zines.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Traditional pen and ink and compute.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?


Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

Work! But it's become my home, have been here for a decade. Kingman Park.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

None, but I've been doodling and making cartoons since I was a kid. Comics and zines started in high school in Southern California.

Who are your influences?

Roz Chast, Marissa Moss, Adrian Tomine, Christoph Niemann, Maira Kalman, Mari Andrew.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Go to art school!

What work are you best-known for?

The Runcible Spoon, my zine about food. We got profiled once in the New York Times and it was honestly my proudest moment. And now my forthcoming graphic memoir, I Was Their American Dream, about being first-generation Filipino-Egyptian-American. My book will be on sale at Solid State Books on April 30, the publication date [note that this is an event that Malaka will be speaking at].

What work are you most proud of?

My little zines that I make on my Instagram continue to delight me

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

Children's books, game books. I've got an idea for a new book called 101 Impossible Games And How To Play Them.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I think about how writing or drawing is all about discipline, but that it takes as long as it needs to take -- and that blocks are part of the process.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

For print zines and comix? I think it will be like vinyl, rare and cultural phenomenon, so then perceived as special.

What local cons do you attend? DC Zinefest? The Small Press Expo, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Those, of course, and the event I cohost: the DC Art Book Fair (July 7 at the National Museum for Women in the Arts).

What's your favorite thing about DC?

The feeling of seeing the National Monuments on the taxi drive from DCA to home, and knowing that this beautiful, fucked up city is mine.

Least favorite?

The color palette of the city in winter.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

The atrium in the National Gallery of Art for a coffee.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I like the meatloaf at Ted's Bulletin.

Do you have a website or blog?

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