Saturday, April 04, 2020

Myriam Gurba - Dishing the Dirt

What happens when you refuse to knuckle under to revisionist white telling of our narratives AND you call out your faculty for racist/abusive behavior? If you're Myriam Gurba de Serrano, you get get removed from your school and walked out by security.

Myriam was instrumental in speaking out against American Dirt and its author, who recently discovered spray tan in a can. Rather than expounding on the book or Oprah, or McMillan's white blindspot, take a minute to read her lynchpin piece, which appeared in Tropics of Meta - My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature.

It was this article, along with the leadership of David Bowles and others the debate led to the development of #DignidadLiteraria and a meeting with McMillan, while only a beginning, signals that we will not be quiet.

Gurba in her classroom at Long Beach Poly High School where she teaches in Long Beach, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.
From the Long Beach Post

From her website:

Myriam Gurba is a writer and artist. She is the author of the true-crime memoir Mean, a New York Times editors’ choice. O, the Oprah Magazine, ranked Mean as one of the best LGBTQ books of all time. Publishers’ Weekly describes Gurba as having a voice like no other. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Paris Review,, and 4Columns. She has shown art in galleries, museums, and community centers. She lives in Long Beach, California, with herself.
Myriam Gurba’s Mean is “a scalding memoir that comes with a full accounting of the costs of survival, of being haunted by those you could not save and learning to live with their ghosts.” It also “adds a necessary dimension to the discussion of the interplay of race, class and sexuality in sexual violence.” – NYTimes
“Like most truly great books, Mean made me laugh, cry and think. Myriam Gurba’s’s a scorchingly good writer.” – Cheryl Strayd, NYTimes


  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Available in: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-56689-491-3
  • Published: November 7, 2017

  • Publisher: Manic D Press
  • Available in: Paperback, Kindle
  • ISBN: 978-1933149905
  • Published: May 19, 2015

  • Also reviewed in La Bloga, here.
  • Publisher: Manic D Press
  • Available in: Paperbook, Kindle
  • ISBN: 978-1933149165
  • Published: May 1, 2007
You got kicked out of your school because of your critiques. What's the big picture message you want to send to your students?

The school district sent me a letter stating that my *forced* leave was not retaliatory. Lol. Do I believe them? NO. I want my students to know that racism and other forms of oppression have no place in education and that some adults are truly committed to fighting against those phenomena. I want them to know freedom. I want them to live freely. I want them to understand what Assata Shakur meant when she said, "No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them." And a lot of motherfuckers need to be overthrown.

What do you think the COVID 19  pandemic will produce in terms of writing, art making, resistance?

I've been thinking about something a friend recently wrote. That this is a shit time so why make any art to commemorate it because we won't want to remember it when its done? Once its done, let's pretend the pandemic never happened. I oscillate between wanting to learn all I can about the virus and its current and future impact and wanting to do the ostrich thing. I'm watching it degrade trust in public institutions, especially state institutions, and I'd like to participate in organizing various "overthrows" but how the fuck can we do that when we can't be together? That's the rub. Shall we storm Versailles wearing masks and gloves? I don't know. Most writers and artists I know are panicking and grieving since they've lost income, some of them have lost ALL OF THEIR INCOME, EVERYTHING, because art gets cut first, and yet, what does the world want in order to survive the horror? Art. Lots of it. People want to be entertained or inspired. But the world doesn't want to pay us for our services. They think being broke is our muse. Money is my muse. (Not really). I need it to live.

June Jordan wrote: “If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.” Talk about predictability and control and the its gifts and its costs.

I love freedom. It cost me a lot to become as free as I am this moment. It cost me my position as a classroom teacher. It cost me friends. In some ways, it has cost me my "reputation." And I don't give a fuck. Yes, I'm pissed about what I believe was wrongly taken from me but I also appreciate waking up and walking through each day "unchained:" it is the best.

What's something you think would surprise people to know about you?

I'm not into cats.

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