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 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 mean to men who deserve it is a holy mission. Sisterhood is powerful, but being mean is more exhilarating.

Being mean isn't for everybody.

Being mean is best practiced by those who understand it as an art form.

These virtuosos live closer to the divine than the rest of humanity. They're queers.

Myriam Gurba is a queer spoken-word performer, visual artist, and writer from Santa Maria, California. She's the author of Dahlia Season (2007, Manic D) which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, Wish You Were Me (2011, Future Tense Books), and Painting Their Portraits in Winter (2015, Manic D). She has toured with Sister Spit and her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. She lives in Long Beach, where she teaches social studies to eighth-graders.

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    Mean Reviews

  • 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...

  • 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 ...

  • 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) w...

  • 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...

  • 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 ho...

  • 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 a...

  • 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/h...

  • 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...

  • Maureen Stanton

    Gurba has such an original voice, playful and poetic and raw, which works for most of this intriguing memoir. On occasion, the style intrudes (i.e., echolalia-type free-association moments which becom...