Memoirs open up all kinds of questions for discussion: For instance, what is the nature of memory and truth? How are we to think about identity and ethics? What does it mean to turn life into narrative and art? While Myriam Gurba’s memoir, Mean—which Alta Journal’s California Book Club will discuss at its April 15 gathering—does not provide all the answers to these questions, it certainly offers us food for thought, particularly about what it means for marginalized persons to narrate themselves.
Mean can be considered an account of survival, in which we follow how Gurba lives and copes with the wounds and trials of her past. Like Gurba herself, Mean is multifaceted, unable to be pinned down to a particular form or genre: it is memoir, true crime, cultural criticism, poetry, queer bildungsroman, deadpan—a text that showcases how identity is not only fluid but perpetually constructed and deconstructed, informed always by the environments and contexts in which we are entangled. It is through this condition, though, that identity allows for blossoming, revision, and the emergence of creativity.
Mean depicts intimate and brutal scenes from Gurba’s life with haunting clarity. She molds words to make astonishing images and metaphors that open up momentous, lyrical spaces in which to think about the power of storytelling and time—how it drifts, is suspended, and races forward.
Gurba is a Mexican American writer and visual artist whose essays have appeared in the Paris Review and Time, among other publications. Mean was selected as a New York Times editors’ choice and was ranked as one of the best LGBTQ books of all time by O, the Oprah Magazine. She is widely known for her incisive review of American Dirt, and Publishers Weekly said that Gurba “has a literary voice like none other.” She lives in Long Beach, California.
To join Alta’s California Book Club conversation with Gurba on April 15, click here.
Did you miss last week’s CBC discussion with Nina Revoyr, John Freeman, and Manuel Pastor? If so, then be sure to check out our recap and recording of the event. Alta
Carribean Fragoza’s debut short story collection, Eat the Mouth That Feeds You, charts the lives of Latinx women navigating personal and structural challenges. In a review, Alta contributor Wendy C. Ortiz considers Fragoza’s “visionary sensibility.” Alta
LOVE AND THE LITERARY
In a review, Yxta Maya Murray describes how Argentinean writer Pola Oloixarac contributes to a melancholy literary aesthetic with an “eccentric, intersectional feminist” perspective in her novel Mona. Los Angeles Review of Books
CALIFORNIA BOOK CLUB EXPLAINED
Journalist Jasmine Liu discusses how Alta’s California Book Club strives to expand what we’ve come to know as the Golden State’s literary canon. 48 Hills
REALISM AND ADVENTURES
“I wanted to invite whatever disaster, complication, or weirdness into it just to see what would happen,” says Chang-rae Lee, on what it takes to write creatively. Believer
Navajo Nation poet laureate Laura Tohe writes on Deb Haaland and the profound significance of a Native American cabinet secretary. Deseret News
David Laskin tries to answer a simple question: Why are novelists so interested in writing about writers? Literary Hub
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