The book Mean by Myriam Gurba is a very raw, real, and funny coming of age story. She uses humor in ways that some people may find uncomfortable and unnecessary, but she is just trying to make light of a situation that was traumatic. I find that the humor helps me not only understand the book, but it helps me to stay engaged and want to keep reading. She has a tendency to make things uncomfortable. I think that is a quality that most books don’t have.
In the blog Off the Beaten Shelf by Mandy Shunnarah she talks about why reading books that make you uncomfortable make you a better reader and person. She gives a lot of great reasons and explanations, but one part of her blog that really stuck out to me was when she said “If we’re not uncomfortable when we learn about injustice, we probably don’t feel called to do anything about it. If we’re not uncomfortable, it’s really easy to look the other way and pretend not to see how society forces people to suffer simply for being who they are and inhabiting the skin they were born in.” I thought this was a really great way to put it. Gurba makes us feel uncomfortable in all the right ways. We are reading about things that we don’t necessarily want to talk about, but we are being exposed to things that matter. Gurba can make us feel uncomfortable about what she is writing about but somehow she makes it funny. Even things that aren’t supposed to be remotely funny. That’s what catches my attention the most. Gurba throws in little comments to bring back your attention all throughout this book. On page 108 she is describing her walk to her mothers work. She says “I crossed the street and sniffed at honeysuckle climbing the fence around the plant nursery. I headed past some weird brown building I assumed offered social services to women- I don’t know why, but the building just gave off an abortion vibe. I crossed the railroad tracks cutting down the middle of the street. An old-timey Coca-Cola bottling plant loomed noirishly behind me.” In this short paragraph she is casually talking about her walk home and then out of nowhere she mentions how the building she is passing gives off abortion vibes. Even though abortion is a tough subject, I found that comical and it pulled me back into the book.
The way Gurba uses her humor and uncomfortableness in this book is what makes it so fun to read. I do often feel uncomfortable while I am reading, but I should feel that way. Most of the topics Gurba is talking about are things that we should not feel okay talking about. That’s why her humor makes it easier to read.
- Does Gurba’s uncomfortableness make the book easier to read/understand? Does it make you a better reader or person?
- Are you okay with the things that Gurba is talking about and they way she uses humor to lighten the mood?