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4.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,822 ratings  ·  255 reviews
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 ou
Paperback, 175 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Coffee House Press (first published November 7th 2017)
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Average rating 4.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,822 ratings  ·  255 reviews

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Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 me and I can already see it featuring on my best of ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
It's OK to be mean.

It isn't just greed that's good. Mean is good too. Being mean makes us feel alive. It's fun and exciting. Sometimes it keeps us alive.

Well, thank heaven for this year's Big Book Brouhaha, or I might never have heard of this author!

It may seem mean, but I'm gonna say it anyway - I never had any interest in reading the other book. When I first saw it listed as a Goodreads giveaway, I read the description, then scrolled on past, dism
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites
A caustic coming-of-age tale, Mean charts the author’s journey toward feminist consciousness as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. In terse prose, spoken-word performer Myriam Gurba recollects dozens of disparate memories of her childhood and adolescence in the Southwest over the course of sixty-one fast-moving chapters. Common themes link standalone vignettes: the author’s development as a writer and artist, her family’s effort to preserve their heritage, the (sexual) abuse of the Mexican-American fe ...more
An intelligent, darkly humorous, and irreverent memoir about growing up as a queer mixed-race Chicana. I always find it difficult for books to make me laugh but I laughed out loud several times reading Mean. Myriam Gurba’s distinct voice reflects both her ability to form sharp observations about the people and situations around her as well as her capacity to know herself, so that she can elicit laughter even when discussing topics like sexual assault, eating disorders, and racism. In sixty-one s ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 what makes her story an important one to hear & remember. Her cheeky style will stay with me.

~TW: Rape/Assault~
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

Such 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 while they put down other women. Enough.
Casey the Reader
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, lgbtq, nonfiction
MEAN is author Myriam Gurba's memoir about coming of age as a mixed race queer Chicana. She looks back at her childhood and teen years through the lens of the repeated assaults on her body she endured. It's a look at the life of a girl drowning in misogyny.

This book is incredible. Gurba's writing is next-level. Her words hold multiple meanings and call back to each other throughout the book. Layer that with her biting, black humor and MEAN is a sharp punch to the gut.

Her memories feel jumbled
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.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Hilarious and brutal. This is a must-read. I mean, damn!
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, then bats the reader playfully on the head."

More here! http://
“Art is one way to work out touch gone wrong.” - This seems to be exactly what Myriam Gurba has done by writing MEAN. It is her way of working through her experience of sexual assault, homophobia, and racism while coming-of-age as a queer and mixed-race women in the 90s. The prose is a mix of more lyrical thought spirals and krass statements but intermixed with so many poignant observations about life that I just had to write down in my journal to remember. A large part of the book deals with Gu ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've seen this book on the Coffee House Press website a handful of times, but it wasn't until I read Gurba's review of American Dirt that I really got a sense of who she is. I figured it was a good time to check it out.

Gurba writes with verve. You get an idea of her sensibilities quickly. Her language lives on the page. In fact, the memoir begins in her childhood as she describes growing up with one language (in fact a household speaking English and Spanish) before realising that the world divid
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I very coincidentally grabbed this at the library just before Gurba's review of American Dirt went viral. Her coming-of-age memoir about queerness, mixed race identity, and assault is so very much the perfect amount of mean and funny to talk back at the many oppressions of white hetero-patriarchy. Tone is important and could honestly be a whole character in this book, as women's anger (especially WOC's anger) is constantly under attack.

Y'all, read this book and support this author. She has suffe
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
With wicked wit and wordplay, Gurba crafts a coming-of-age memoir that details her Mexican-American childhood and the aftermath of a sexual assault. As she proved with her takedown of American Dirt, Gurba’s is a voice to be reckoned with.
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 about this book is that I did not like the author's v
Elise Karlsson
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: klassiker
"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 ghosts. The haunting."
Bryn Greenwood
Feb 17, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 Googled Gurba. This shouldn't really figure into my rea ...more
Amy P.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
F*ck...that was intensely good.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Myriam Gurba first came to my attention during the American Dirt debacle -- an editor at a feminist magazine refused to publish her vicious review (saying that Gurba wasn't famous enough), and an essay that she wrote about the experience went viral (and led to her being fired from her teaching job). Then she started getting death threats, and wrote a terrific essay about that, entitled "My Taco Laughs at You: On Death Threats Aimed at Women of Color Who Don’t Fellate White Supremacy" , so when I ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 really sharp.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lgbt
3.5 stars. a bit too brutal for me, and not what i had expected, but the subject matter matters to me.

book 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.
Charlotte Abotsi
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
MEAN is a dynamic memoir in which author Myriam Gurba recalls memories of molestation, encounters with the dead, her upbringing in a mixed-race Mexican-Polish family, while coming of age in California. Gurba devastatingly depicts femicide and sexual assault against women through ghastly interpretations and experience.

I find myself always chasing narratives like this: eerie and deeply personal, comedy that curves with a dark bend. MEAN reminded me much of SABRINA & CORINA by Kali Farjado-Anstine
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Gurba is part Mexican and part Polish -- a self-described Molack.
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I gotta admit to side-eying the publisher's claim of this book boasting "radical formal fluidity," particularly because I assume it's referring to the occasional poetic detours interspersed throughout an otherwise relatively straightforward memoir. I found these moments strangely lifeless, overwritten and unaffecting departures from the real draw of Mean: Myriam Gurba's hilarious, incisive voice. Gurba's primary focus is her relationship with cruelty, both her own and that of the world at large. ...more
"We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would chop off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. 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."

Myriam Gurba is a queer, mixed-race Chicana who considers being mean an art form. Her memoir is marked by tragedy
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“We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would chop off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. 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.” 12 likes
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