Review: Mean by Myriam Gurba

A possessive part of me wants to hoard this story. I want to chipmunk or squirrel away the memory of this event, place it in a tree trunk with the memories of all the other rapes, attempted rapes, and gropes, memories that will never be released or consumed. When a man asks, “What did he do to you?” he’s asking to eat one of these traumatic acorns. Girls never ask for these seeds. They know what it’s like to be degraded and fucked by this world, to be made a big-time bottom by life. They don’t need the details of my particular shame to construct empathy. Girls have always left my nuts, my tragic acorns, alone. Uneaten. 


Summary and Thoughts

True crime, memoir, and ghost story, Mean is the bold and hilarious tale of Myriam Gurba’s coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Gurba takes on sexual violence, small towns, and race, turning what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.


This is a unique book. As the description states, it has a satiric, sharp humor, using this to punctuate the harsh reality of a Chicana’s experiences with racism, homophobia, and sexual assault — and these experiences are offered with visceral detail. For me, I found the writing a bit too abstract and the humor didn’t quite hit – so this felt more like a catalogue of events to decode. Some excepts stood out, such as its main “Ode to Meanness” for which the book is titled, but, in general, of its streams of thought went over my head. Though I’m still glad I read this book, it hasn’t left me with any particularly strong memorable scenes, burning questions, or complex emotions. With the memoir being relatively short, I would only recommend considering your own tastes before picking it up.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

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