Earlier this year, i shared with you that one of my goals for 2019 was to read 52 books — a book a week. i decided to start 2019 with a bang and with a book that i really wanted to read but had to wait until i owned a copy.
That book was Mean by Myriam Gurba.
Every year for my birthday, i somehow end up at Half Price Books (go figure right?!) This past birthday was no different. Except it was. My 41st birthday book haul included titles that i have been on my wishlist for a while, but i never thought i’d find. i found Mean tucked behind two other books in the memoir section of HPBs Flagship store. i also found Edwidge Danticat’s Creative Dangerously and a small but mighty little book on the craft of memoir, Marion Roach Smith’s The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life.
These are three books that i knew in my gut could deeply influence my life.
i decided to kick off my goal with Mean because for a long time i’ve been searching for a voice and a book from a woman of color to help guide my own. My favorite writer is Dani Shapiro and i love her but . . . i don’t see myself in the experiences she writes about. i see myself in her words and grasp of the craft of writing. i wanted to see my experiences told and crafted with the same mastery as Dani.
Myriam’s Mean 100% did that for me.
It now has a permanent place amid my ‘reference’ collection by my writing desk nestled between all my Shapiro novels and memoirs and Grace Jones.
And i wanted to share with you my review of her book. If you’re on Goodreads, you can see this review and all my others here.
Skyy Review: Mean by Myriam Gurba
i really really loved this book.
i loved it more in the beginning and in the end. The poetics seemed to get lost somewhere after I Wandered Lonely as a Dissociate Cloud but i think i understand why. It was intentional. From there on out the book sways from disassociated metaphors to stark recollection and story. But it comes back to the poetics in the end … just like Myriam’s ghost.
This is the first “memoir” i have read written by a person of color, more specifically a Brown queer woman. i can’t remember how i happened upon it but i remember getting it from the library last year, reading the first section Wisdom, putting it down, and thinking to myself that this is one of those books that i needed to own. To hold, feel, and mark up and highlight as i read. i knew after those first few pages that this book would be important to me and i was right.
In fact, i think this book is important to all of us fringelings — especially queer women of color.
i’ve read some of the reviews in which some readers feel like Myriam was “arrogant,” “flippant,” and too “mean girly” … all i can say is i feel like these women readers have missed the main point.
Not that Myriam needs permission from anyone, but she has every right to be all and none of the above. In a society that deems women of color’s anger and raising of our voices as disruptive and a menace to white society, Myriam’s tone, writing voice, and story is the scream and loudness that every queer woman of color who has ever oppressed or physically, verbally, or mentally assaulted needs to hear. Its the roar we all need to be.This is not a quiet book. But the world we live in is no longer a quiet society. Click To Tweet
But what i really loved about this book is that i — as a queer brown woman myself — finally have found a writer and a book that speaks to all sides of the kind of word artist i want to be. The metaphors are textbook while still being tethered, rooted, and ultra-relatable to brown culture. The poetics are refined and organic while still being completely true to the horribleness of her story. Our story.
‘”So this is what mental health smells like . . . ” I thought. It wasn’t cheap. It certainly wasn’t Mexican.”‘
But this book deeply is.
And it is a book mi gente desperately needs — on so many levels.
If you self-identify as a female, read this book.
If you are Brown, Latinx, Chicana, Xicana, Mexicana, et al., read this book.
If you are queer, read this book.
If you’re looking for a queer writer of color who grasp of the craft of writing is just as good as most people’s favorite white authors, read this book.
i will be revisiting it over and over again because there’s a lot in here that can only be discovered in a 3rd or 4th reading.
i’m glad i read and own this book. And i’m sure as shit happy Myriam wrote it.
All i can say is, she’s such a Latina! 😉
What’s the first book you read/are reading in 2019? Spill your reading tea to me in the comments!