About Mean

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.

Praise For Mean

  • Oprah Magazine “One of the Best LGBTQ Books of All Time”
  • Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ Nonfiction
  • Finalist for the Publishing Triangle Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction
  • 2018 ALA-GLBTRT Over the Rainbow Top 10 Book
  • Nylon, “Our Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2017”
  • Book Riot, “The Best Genre Bending Fiction of 2017”
  • NBC, “8 Great Latino Books of 2017”
  • BuzzFeed, “The 19 Best Nonfiction Books Of 2017”
  • Autostraddle, “The Top 10 Queer and Feminist Books of 2017”
  • Remezcla, “These Were the Best Books From Latin American & Latino Authors in 2017”
  • The Riveter, “The Riveter’s Top Ten Books of 2017”

“Gurba’s ‘queer art of being mean’ is a triumph of deadpan humor in a timely and thrilling voice. Stop everything and read this brave and tender book.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Mean calls for a fat, fluorescent trigger warning start to finish — and I say this admiringly. Gurba likes the feel of radioactive substances on her bare hands.” —The New York Times

“Gurba is something of a connoisseur of cruelty. She doesn’t pull her punches, but her jabs are calibrated with a perfect balance of rage and satire.” —The New York Times

“Mean demands our attention not only as a painfully timely story, but also as an artful memoir…. a powerful, vital book about damage and the ghostly afterlives of abuse.”  —Los Angeles Review of Books

“With unconstrained, inventive, stop-you-in-your-tracks writing, Gurba asserts that there is glee, freedom, and, perhaps most of all, truth in meanness.”  —Booklist

“Gurba seems intent on tearing down walls and shaking readers out of complacency; her writing pulls our attention to human cruelty, suffering, and then, resilience. We are better off for it.” BuzzFeed

“[Gurba’s skill] here is apparent in the way she demonstrates her own gradual maturing through her developing thoughts and sense of self.” —Literary Hub

“This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.” —The Rumpus

“[Gurba’s] politicized consciousness comes not only through her college education, but also through the stories of the women who don’t survive the violence that women of color encounter on journeys similar to hers. This is a startling and edgy book from start to finish.” —NBCNews

“[Gurba’s] dark humor isn’t used for shock value alone, offering instead a striking image of deflection and coping in the face of real pain and terror.” —Publishers Weekly

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“With its icy wit, edgy wedding of lyricism and prose, and unflinching look at personal and public demons, Gurba’s introspective memoir is brave and significant.” —Kirkus

“She tackles everything from sexual violence to racism with humour and directness.” —ELLE UK

“[Gurba’s] voice is irreverent, lyrical, and sharply observant, even as her book offers dark commentary on what it means to be a woman in American society.” Library Journal, starred review

Mean will make you LOL and break your heart.” —The Millions

“Portrayals of ideas like home and safety are presented realistically and with complexity.” —Remezcla

“[Mean] is a book that commands you, pushing and pulling you with the author’s expert language and voice, haunting you long after the pages have ended.” —Atticus Reviews

“The book is a study in the utility and limits of niceness, especially when it comes to being a nice girl—and the political power of being mean.”  —Pacific Standard

“Don’t let its slim profile fool you, this memoir bursts with vitality and humor (however mordant), all while dealing with issues of gender politics, sexual assault, PTSD, and Gurba’s experience growing up as a queer, mixed race Chicana in California in the ’80s.” —Nylon

“Through her unpredictable style, Gurba offers a welcomed antidote to the formula of the contemporary novel.” —W Magazine

“This book is testament, translation, smackdown, and also it’s hella funny.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“Gurba throws her past styles and concerns into a blast furnace and casts Mean, a pair of brass knuckles disguised as a book, a personal narrative that takes on sexual assault and its aftermath, rape culture, racism, queerness, family, and coming of age, laced through with a cool knowing and cooler humor, a literary voice like none other.” —Publishers Weekly

“Hauntingly, beautiful, and refreshingly blunt, Gurba’s [Mean] is an open door through which she invites you to experience her life, in all its beauty and struggle. I suggest you walk through it.” —Harvard Crimson

“The difficulty and the joy of reading Mean is diving deep into the murky ‘Molack’ waters with Myriam Gurba.” —Bust

“[Gurba’s] writing is caustic and scathing, and eloquently targeted.” —Literary Hub

“This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.” —The Rumpus

“Not one to mince words, this Lambda Literary finalist [Myriam Gurba] nevertheless aims to entertain as she tackles racism, homophobia, and sexual violence in this amusing genre-defying celebration of strategic offensiveness.” —Logo

Mean takes a hard look at how this country has treated victims of sexual violence and how collectively we have shamed them into inaction and steered them away from their own advocacy, demonstrating that consequences for attackers often fall entirely on the victim.” —The Believer

“Honest and darkly funny, the book is riddled with moments that will have you nodding, cringing, and crying right along with the author.” —Harper’s Bazaar

“Throughout the book, [Gurba] handles the telling of one tragedy after another with great care and sharp humor, so there is redemption and levity even in dark moments.” Buzzfeed

“[Gurba] breathes fire and Spanglish, batters you with her biting humor then buries you in truths you cannot look away from. . . . This is how memoirs should always be written – with fierceness, brutal honesty and a wry smile cutting through it all.” —Brightest Young Things

“Read Mean for its humor and stimulating structure. Read Gurba for her unique perspective and literary stylings.” —PANK

Mean is pure Gurba: brazen, ballsy, and grinning. But Gurba’s first memoir is also poised to be a breakout book—a work that, like Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water, will likely catapult its author out of the small world of experimental-ish short fiction and into a much larger readership.” —4Columns

“Gurba’s artistic sensibility is so fresh, her wit and observational skills so acute, that she defies all expected tropes and story structure.” —Dallas Morning News

“Through wit and in-your-face brilliance, Gurba tells a story that is both deeply personal and bitingly critical of modern life. Along the way, she also gives us a masterclass in what intersectionality is all about.” —Shondaland

“Crafted with a specificity of language that only a poet could muster, Mean is a reckoning with racism, misogyny, and homophobia by way of a coming of age tale.” —Electric Literature

“[Mean] charts [Gurba’s] coming-of-age as a mixed-raced, queer Chicana and delves into the dark recesses of feminism, racism, sexual violence and PTSD with fierce humor where you’d least expect it.” —Orange County Register

“To say this book exudes confidence is an understatement.” —ELLE

“Gurba’s prose is dark and sparse, potent yet playful. She combines different registers and rhythms, and weaves together threads of different kinds of privilege, whiteness, sexual assault, and trauma.” —The Rumpus

“[Gurba] has written a memoir that is just a little bit different—or maybe a lot—an in-your-face account of the young life of a mixed-race Chicana who identifies as queer, who has known prejudice, the anguish of her own sexual assault and an unshakable haunting by others she knows have been victims.” —Kansas City Star

“If you like memoirs (hell, even if you don’t), this one will knock your socks off.” —Hello Giggles

“Gurba’s writing feels devastating and holy and hilarious all at once.” —Autostraddle

“In vivid and unflinching prose, Gurba looks at sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia, and speaks out for women who aren’t afraid to be feisty and angry and mean.” —Bustle

Mean turns a bright spotlight on the sexual violence that women endure and what it means to live life after trauma.” —Them

“Gurba has constructed a coming-of-age memoir full of gut punches and belly laughs, culminating in trauma, but never victimization.” —NewPages

“Myriam Gurba’s witty, trenchant, and all too relevant account of a culture in which sexual violence exists as a frightening daily reality and is often confronted alone.” —Adroit Journal

“The complexity of [Gurba’s] voice contributes to the appeal of her memoir, which is compelling, suspenseful, both knowable as the girl next door and mysterious. . . . This memoir is remarkable for its unflinching candor, for its humor in the face of tragedy and absurdity, and for its adventurous style.” —Shelf Awareness Pro

Mean tackles the most serious of topics—sexual assault, racism, homophobia—with a voice that revels in the grim humor of survival.” —Catapult Community, “Staff Picks”

“I am such a gigantic fan of Myriam Gurba. Her voice is an alchemy of queer magic, feminist wildness, and intersectional explosion. She’s a gigantic inspiration to my work and the sexiest, smartest literary discovery in Los Angeles. She’s totally ready to wake up the world.” —Jill Soloway

“Casually frank and grimly funny, the stealth power of this book mesmerizes. Mean excavates one female’s personal history with America’s rape culture, zooming through suburbia, race, friendship, desire, education, family, pop culture—essentially taking on the world—with prose both controlled and popping with singular detail. There is no writer like Myriam Gurba, and Mean is perfection.” —Michelle Tea

“‘The post-traumatic mind has an advanced set of art skills,’ Myriam Gurba writes. Mean tackles the profane and the sacred by sticking one hand into your chest and grabbing hold of your heart muscle while the other hand tickle fights your brain, complete with serious noogies. Aligned with female saints and feminist artists and writers, Gurba vividly offers stories both familiar and unfamiliar in a heartbreaking and riotously funny collection that, like Gurba, is hybrid in its form. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book that covers the territories of class, racism, sexual assault, eating disorders, and more that made me LOL with its ferocious intellect and biting humor. There is just no other voice like hers, and Mean is a testament to that fact. I want Myriam Gurba to translate the world.” —Wendy Ortiz

“For its unapologetic examination of trauma, for its witty take on the beloved idols of pop, and for its contributions to the genre of memoir, Mean is a must-read. . . . Gurba’s voice is strong, irreverent, vulnerable, and smart all at the same time, a much needed perspective at a time when white gentility dominates the national conversation on sexual harassment and what it means to be accountable.” —Mask Magazine

“Gurba bookends this book with two sexual assaults and in their retelling manages to offer something close to the catharsis we all so desperately need. When I finished the last page, I couldn’t help but reverently whisper aloud, ‘Damn.’” —Heauxs

“Gurba manages to simultaneously inhabit the innocence and audacity of a child’s point of view and the nuanced and scathing humor of an adult awareness. She invokes petty meanness and indicts systemic cruelty. She exploits the often-paradoxical distance between the experience of trauma and the body’s reactions to create a fractured narrative that teases the line between disclosure and revelation.” —Truthout

“[Mean] is not a triumphant story of survival, rather it’s a defiant, hybrid text that refuses to let anyone off the hook and resists the falsity of closure.” —Iowa Review

“Gurba’s memoir is a deft fusion of true crime, ghost story and memoir. . . . Gurba freely admits to having a gleefully gruesome sense of humor. She uses this quality liberally in her story of the ghost who haunts Gurba as she’s trying to make sense of her own trauma and life as a mixed-race queer Chicana.” —Kansas City Star

Mean book cover

Price: $16.95

Publisher: Coffee House Press

Available In Paperback, 160 pages

ISBN: 978-1-56689-491-3

Published: 2017