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, Feminism

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...
  • 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.
  • MariNaomi
    Hilarious and brutal. This is a must-read. I mean, damn!
  • 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, ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Rachel
    w o w this was incredibly written, funny and ruthless and wise. i wish it was twice as long. also not my main takeaway, but as a catholic school survivor i have a personal fondness for books that reference that experience
  • 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...
  • 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....
  • 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...
  • 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, ...
  • Andrea Quinlan
    This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Phenomenal! You'll love and devour this and want to read it again in quick succession.
  • 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.
  • Alyse
    this book fucked me up in the best way! I could read a million more of Gurba's essays and never tire.
  • 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...
  • Genevieve
    A wry, searing book about growing up as a queer brown girl in California in the 80s and 90s -- and about sexual assault. If you loved Speak when you were 14, and now you're 30 and have some idea of how much more cruel the world can be, read this. It's very funny and very dark and very smart and very real and will tear you into little pieces.
  • Jenny Shank
    Dallas Morning News, November 1, 2017"Art is one way to work out touch gone wrong," Myriam Gurba writes in her invigorating memoir Mean, which in part addresses the harrowing story of her assault at age 19, and her rumination about the other woman the attacker went on to rape and kill before he was caught. But Gurba's artistic sensibility is so fresh, her wit and observational skills so acute, that she defies all expected tropes and story structu...
  • Ita - storiesnotstandards
    "It's ok for ghosts to exist through me. It has to be."☄Myriam Gurba's "Mean" is very much an inspiration for me because it's rare to find voices bold enough to guide you through violence, racism, family, friendship, queerness, sanctity, sexual assault, academic life, small towns, food, pop music and death in such a funny and honest style. Mixing laughters with memories and heritage, Gurba's story is also mixed: with ghosts, the ghost of Sophia...
  • Allie
    I was on page 34 when I told 3 different people that this may be the best book I've ever read. After finishing, I'm confident it is. Thank you to Myriam Gurba for making the space for meanness, queerness, laughter, pain, and truth. This is SUCH a refreshing read in light of celebrities' newfound "activism" and the onslaught of cishet dudes unfounded opinions on rape. This is mandatory reading in an intersectional feminist syllabi, in my opinion. ...
  • Charlie
    A brilliantly written autofiction, Myriam Gurba's Mean tracks the author's coming of age in a society that physically preys on women, and especially women of color. You know, ours. It captures a full range of emotions, but what most stuck out to me was how good Gurba is at crafting jokes, both microjokes of a few words or less, and macrojokes that she sets up over the course of the entire work. This is maybe the single funniest books of the year,...
  • Steven
    I can't think of anything to say about this book that could give it any amount of the justice it deserves. It's lyrical. It's powerful. It's magical. Not forgetting that magic isn't all fairy godmothers and amiable genies. The next to last sentence makes you laugh out loud. The last sentence leaves a cold, sad spot behind your eyes. The entire book teeters deliriously on the fulcrum between those two opposites, all drunk and confident in its tell...
  • Judith Taveras
    Amazing! Thought provoking, provocative, semi-autobiography. I really appreciated how she addressed sexual assault in this book. For women, one of the main challenges of talking about sexual assault/harassment, is trying to get men to understand how constant it is in our lives. How through social conditioning we become so accustomed to first being seeing as an object to criticize, prod, and possess. Sigh. Anyways, I really like Myriam's writing s...
  • Olivia
    "We act mean because we like to laugh. Being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty. Being rude to men who deserve it is a holy mission. Sisterhood is powerful, but being a bitch is more exhilarating. Being a bitch is spectacular." I'm unsure of how to describe Mean, but I loved every minute of it. In personal essays of varying forms, Gurba recounts her childhood up until reckoning with a specific trauma. It is nostalgic in some part...
  • Nina
    Not only is this a visceral and honest and take on life after assault as a mixed woman of Mexican and Polish descent, this is also a project of power reclamation. As she reclaims her body and takes on the reigns of her sexual power, the author also takes control of the readers: how we see her, how we are attracted to her, what we can and cannot learn of her. I am in awe of my newest ancestor, Myriam Gurba.