Mean. Does it make you feel better? Are you stronger now?

Myriam Gurba’s memoir, Mean, focuses on the childhood and adolescent years of Gurba’s life, where she has to deal with growing up in California as a mixed-raced Chicana surrounded by a population of white people, and being queer. Gurba faces a lot of racism and misogyny throughout her teenage years and over the course of learns how to “be mean”.

“Being mean” is something that had heavily impacted Gurba growing up. She was always treated differently due to her race whether it was in School or in her community. 

She always knew she was Mexican, but she didn’t think she was much different from other people til people started referring to her as a “Mexican”. This can be seen in the beginning of the novel when Myriam has with Emily’s family while her mother has complications giving birth. Myriam asks Emily’s mother what they’re having for dinner and she answers with, “Since you’re visiting, Mexican.” (5)

Myriam thinks that her mom will cook up a storm of all of these traditional delicious Mexican cousine meals, whilst instead she makes a Mexican casserole out of basic American ingredients.

This small example demonstrates how at such a young age, Myriam is already facing racism, and she doesn’t know how to react. On the next page she even adds “There was nothing Mexican about it.” (6)

Americans today even stereotype Mexican cousine to be Taco Bell, however, for a child at a young age to subjected to being called “a Mexican” and making a half-fast Mexican-American meal because that is someone’s ethnicity is extremely damaging to any child.  

This incident sparked and inspired Myriam to become a stronger person and fight back against this racism with the strength she gained from being mean.

At an early age, Gurba learned that it was ok to be mean. It was how she was going to survive in this world.

She learned from this incident that there is evil in this world, and the only way to truly fight back is to treat people the same way they treat you… only 10x harder.

In the next short story from her memoir, The Problem of Evil, Gurba asks her father “Why does evil exist?”, and he answers with “Myriam, think of how boring life would be if nothing bad ever happened?” (16)

Although this probably wasn’t Myriam’s father’s intentions, these words gave her permission to be mean. Gurba expresses on the next page how “we act mean to defend ourselves”, and later exclaims how “It’s best practiced by those who understand it as an art form.” (17)

One incident and the people around us affect us act a young age. If it wasn’t for the people that surrounded Myriam, she wouldn’t have been exposed to racism at such a young age, and I don’t think she would’ve been able to know how to stand up for herself as well as others, if she didn’t have this experience.

However, being mean changed Myriam at a young age, and in many ways led her to be act cruel and senseless towards other people. 

It seemed as if she was looking for a sort of vengeance towards the white people who had wronged her in the past and present. An example of this can be seen, when she exclaims, “I hoped Steve would injure himself and die so that I wouldn’t have to let him into my club. That had been my strategy. To give his sex an insurmountable initiation. Like the literacy test given to black folks in the American South before the Voting Rights Act passed.” (15)

Despite the fact that Gurba had been wronged and treated poorly by those around her, she was acting cruel towards other people who hadn’t wronged her. 

She wasn’t defending herself or anyone else.

So what fun could she have really had?

Discusson Questions:

  1. Do you think if Myriam had lived in another city or state, she would’ve had a different childhood experience? Do you think she would still be mean?
  2. How can such a small incident impact a child to question the world around them, and change their perspectives on life? 

Work cited:

Gurba, Myriam. Mean

Mending the past

While making this found poem, I wanted to explore the topic of not being able to let go of the past. I felt that this was a really strong topic to cover for my poem, since people have all different kinds of views and standpoints on how they deal with grief and sadness.

Some people chose to accept that something has gone wrong and will move on with their lives within a blink of an eye, some it takes more time than others, but eventually they do find their way to cope with grief in a short-medium amount of time, while others can’t seem to move on for a long lasting time. 

This is a difficult process for many of them to deal with. They can’t process this grief and it stays with them. 

So, I chose a poem entitled, “Changing the Past”, by a girl who goes by the name of Donna from the website under the section life lesson poems. Donna writes this poem about her brother who was going through a difficult time. Her brother was dealing with a lot of grief and sadness, however she believed that his grief could be ‘fixed’, since other people have it worse than him.

I felt that I needed to write about this poem since dealing with grief is a very touchy subject, and writing a poem to try and show someone that they don’t have it ‘as bad as someone else’ in the long run isn’t going to help the other person heal. 

Donna had an overall very strong poem and it seemed like her message could resonate with her brother and many others who suffer from depression, however, her message throughout her poem was to basically ‘get over it, because someone has it worse than you’, so I cut and paste words from the poem and I reshaped in a way where the typical phrases about not being able to change the past were in the middle, and the shorter more meaningful sentences were cut out and centered or pasted to the side to show that there is hope for the poet’s brother and other out there. I wanted to reshape what she did in a way to show these people suffering that they weren’t alone and if they took more ‘out of the lines’ ideas, and one day at a time, it could get easier—however not fixable, which is why the stanza is not together. 

Hey my name is Kristy

Hey everyone I’m Kristy! I’m from Long Island. I’m a freshman majoring in Adolescent Education Spanish/French. I love spending time with my family and friends! I like meeting and getting to know people! I also like to dance, workout, listen to music and write. My favorite book is the Great Gatsby. I’m looking forward to a great year!