Mean by Myriam Gurba


Myriam Gurba's debut is the bold and hilarious tale of her coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Mean turns what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, funny, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would cut off our breasts. We act m...

Details Mean

Release DateNov 14th, 2017
PublisherCoffee House Press
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Lgbt, Glbt, Queer

Reviews Mean

  • Hannah
    This was absolutely stunning. The only reason this was not quite a five star read for me was because it took me about 60 pages to find my rhythm with this book (and the book is not particularly long). But once I did, it was beyond incredible. Myriam Gurba has a way of structuring her thoughts, of coming at her point from different angles that I found particularly brilliant. And I might still change my rating. This memoir will for sure stay with m...
  • MariNaomi
    Hilarious and brutal. This is a must-read. I mean, damn!
  • Kevin
    A wild, sometimes messy sandwich of a book. Almost like if Kathy Acker tried to write a true crime book. The beginning and end focus intensely on rape and trauma and the middle is more of a scattershot memoir with a lot of weird comedic relief weaved in. Only Myriam could get away with such an audacious creation. She's one of a kind, thank God.
  • Verity Sturm
    Myriam Gurba’s Mean is a powerful, creative, uproariously candid memoir of a woman between a slew of extremes. Set in the heat of California and adolescence, Mean bluntly unveils the racism, sexual violence, and homophobia braided into a queer Chicana’s coming of age–flavors of hatred that have taught Gurba the vital art of being mean. Featuring art, ghosts, true crime, and a whole lot of black humor, Gurba’s floating prose and topic matt...
  • M.
    I reviewed this recently for 4Columns -- here's an excerpt: "“Being mean makes us feel alive,” Myriam Gurba writes in her new book, the memoir Mean. “It’s fun and exciting. Sometimes, it keeps us alive.” Rooted in her experience growing up a queer mixed-race Chicana in a world structured by whiteness, straightness, and misogyny, Gurba’s particular meanness is confrontational, deliberate, and very, very funny. She goes for the throat, ...
  • Mel
    I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable, enraged, and yet so enthused and sometimes giggly at a memoir as dark as this one. Written in an often poetic style in fits and bursts of brutality and nostalgia— this book is going to make you FEEL. Gurba’s journey is a little too familiar but that’s always what makes her story an important one to hear & remember. Her cheeky style will stay with me. ~TW: Rape/Assault~
  • Elise Karlsson
    "German Jewish toker, hiker and intellectual Walter Benjamin wrote an essay titled 'Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting.' In it, he describes his musty zeal, intoning that 'every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories.' The chaos of memories. The chaos of mammaries. The chaos that comes after being touched. The chaos of penetration. The chaos of breath. The chaos caused by quiet...
  • Joseph
    Review on my website!
  • ellis
    3.5 stars. a bit too brutal for me, and not what i had expected, but the subject matter matters to is about about sexual assault, rape, problems the author faced as a young mexican lesbian, and more. extremely lyrical prose and themed chapters made this an unconventional autobiography.
  • Macartney
    Gurba tells us, the readers, over and over how mean she is (ie, unkind and characterized by malice). The book shows her to be anything but. Instead, she's a mean writer (ie, excellent and effective) who has written a mean novel (ie, vexatious; causing trouble or bother) whose words mean (ie, to signify; to intend to convey) something big, particularly in this #metoo moment. What does it mean to be marked as different, whether by sexuality, gender...
  • Priyanka Sofia
    3.5 starsSuch mixed feelings. The writing’s gorgeous in places; she tackles important themes such as sexual violence, race, identity, eating disorders. This book is going to haunt me for a while. At the same time, Gurba comes across as arrogant and nasty towards other women. Too many women are labelled ‘bitches’ and criticised. I will finish this one but I’m tired. I’m tired of women talking about how badly women are treated by society ...
  • Lisa
    What a great memoir—it's all voice, but it's an incredibly strong and engaging voice, honest and brutal and super funny. /there were so many good moments of recognition about the ways the exterior world knocks up against the world in your head if you're a particular sort of smart, restless, impatient woman, and Gurba has a pitch-perfect tone for telling you all about it—sort of in between a glint in her eye and a punch on the arm. Really real...
  • Miriam
    Can I give this six stars? I want to. Nah, I need to - just a few pages in, I knew I'd found my queer intersectional feminist manifesto. Mean is whip-smart, hard-hitting, wildly fun. and totally punk. Thanks for being a fucking rock star, Myriam.I would write a proper review, but all I really want to say is read it. It's important.
  • kelly
    This is a doozy of a book. It's a non-linear narrative, opening with a violent account of a woman being raped and murdered in a park. Gurba then switches to a host of different topics that are seemingly unrelated to the first but yet still interesting: growing up as a mixed race Chicana, having a family member with mental illness, discovering her identity as a lesbian. Later in the book we discover that the attacker referenced in the first part i...
  • Sara
    Gurba opens her memoir (?) with a horrific vignette of a woman being beaten to death and raped. This is her jumping off point to prove to us that her meanness is borne of political need as a woman of color. And, okay, some of my feelings about all this are clearly my own thing--I'm sensitive and don't like meanness, which perhaps comes out of my white privilege as Gurba suggests, but also I did something I shouldn't have done as a reader--I Googl...
  • Lisa Eirene
    I'm unsure of how I feel about this book.First, I liked the writing style. It was poetic and stream of consciousness-esque, there was some really powerful and beautiful writing in there.Second, I think the memoir takes on a lot of important topics--racism, culture, sexual assault, harassment, GLBT issues, anorexia, family, recovery and death. "The privilege of surviving doesn't feel good. It makes me feel guilty."But the reason I feel so torn abo...
  • Kate Olson
    This book blew. me. away. One minute I was cringing away from the graphic descriptions of sexual assault and the next I was chuckling at the brilliant word play Gurba throws down. This is one of those books that make me feel like I'm not quite cool or smart enough ~ it humbled me and had my brain whirring in overdrive. Hands-down the best book on rape culture I have ever read, but it breaks my heart that I need to have a favorite book about rape....
  • l.
    I have issues with Gurba. Primarily with how she is flippant about traumas that are not her own. This memoir is still worth reading though. I'll be thinking about it for some time.
  • Erik Caswell
    I could gush over this book forever. an instant favorite. I love the short sections, the meandering musings, the super sharp and irreverent insights and observations into whiteness and patriarchy heteronormativity and rape culture and how all these things weave into one another. the power of this and writing like this is that "sociology" and whatever you want to call it is made concrete in peoples lives. there are tiny paragraphs that read more l...
  • christa
    Myriam Gurba’s memoir “Mean” opens with the chase-torture-rape-death of Sophia Torres, a young woman described by some media as “transient.” Gurba and Torres are linked by more than a shared culture: Torres was raped by the same man, but lived to experience the PTSD. In between Torres’ death and the rewind to Gurba’s attack is a coming-of-age in Southern California in the 1980s that sticks to two specific topics: race, sexuality. Gu...
  • Will
    Myriam Gurba's funky lil' memoir packs a wallop. With a format almost reminiscent of Maggie Nelson's Argonauts, Gurba embarks in telling the story of her childhood as a woman of color in inland California. In stark, honest, hilarious, and frequently dark bursts Gurba reconciles with childhood sexual violence, queerness, and the realities of growing up mixed race. One of the things that makes this book so distinctive to me is Gurba's ability to im...
  • Stefanie
    For some reason I thought this was a novel and was twenty pages in before I noticed the cover said it was a memoir. Gurba tells a harsh story, she has good reason to be mean. She is sharp and witty and her sarcastic humor is fantastic:By eighth grade, being called a ho was water off my wet back. I was a paradoxical ho, though, a bookworm ho with a fading Mexican complexion. Young people of color are supposed to enjoy looting and eating trans fats...
  • Terry
    I can see why Michelle Tea (of whom I'm a fan) is a fan of Gurba--and if you like Michelle Tea (which I do!), then you'll definitely love Gurba's writing. I loved this book (I'm not sure if I'd call it a memoir or a collection)--Gurba has an exceedingly dry but both clever and caustic wit, and there's something just this side of magical realism in her style...almost dreamy, or dream-like, while describing heartbreaking events. The opening piece a...
  • Li Sian
    I wasn't expecting to like 'Mean' as much as I did? Lots of the reviews of 'Mean' centered on meanness as a response to structural injustice; meanness (implied) as feminist praxis. Which I've definitely come to be skeptical of over the years. BUT 'Mean' is about way more than justifying 'meanness' - it's a memoir, it's true crime, and it's a ghost story. I love all three genres, and I loved Gurba's voice: loud, wisecracking, and slightly performa...
  • Sylvia
    I absolutely loved this book. This is an edgy lyrical memoir in which Gurba unfolds what it is to grow up as a Molack (mexican and polack) and become a queer feminist artist who is chased by ghosts (public and personal) (nice and mean). Written in short vignettes this is as much a coming of age as it is a solid essay about womanhood, culture, art, heritage, individuality.A wonderful-whimsical writer that plays with language, form, and meanness.
  • Miranda Hency
    This book was poetic and surprising, and showcased truly mean things--the trauma of rape and the guilt of surviving when others don't. I liked the timeline of the book, its short chapters, and Myriam Gurba's voice. This is a book of growth and survival and violence and strength.
  • TaraShea Nesbit
    This book is fierce. Queer, funny, mean, loving. Fierce. The look at sexual trauma and how we as writers narrate trauma is a master class in preserving the self while describing the event. Gurba is able to have a reader laughing about the most traumatic of events, which is a kind of mode for showing healing. (I know I've recovered/"mastered" when my writing can include the humor of even the direst of situations.)Fave lines:"I know I can be mean, ...
  • Georgia
    Overwrought, until it isn’t
  • Chloe
    So good. Funny, tragic, horrifying, beautiful. The author's wry narration style makes the entire book a joy to read, even the ugly parts.
  • Ruth
    Soooo tough & mean & snarky but also soooo honest & vulnerable & confused. It's hard not to like that mix.