Growing up in our modern society has its up and downs, as there are expectations one must meet to be “successful”. Throughout the first section of “Mean”, Myriam Gurba details her life story and discusses what it was like growing up in California, and the unique experiences she went through. She does not fit in with the “normal” crowd, as she is very different from them in various ways. During my reading of the first section of this novel, I noticed a pattern of Gruba dealing with circumstances most girls do not.
In one instance, Gurba was sitting in her school’s cafeteria and she noticed a boy was smiling at her. Like any social person, she attempts to talk to this boy for him to use a racial slur to describe the size of her lips (23). What’s peculiar about this exchange is that she was stereotyped as an African American, when in reality, she is Mexican. This shows that ignorance shows no boundaries, that all minorities are associated with one another and can’t break free of racial stereotypes and slurs. The most interesting part of this situation is that Gurba explains from where she got her puffy lips from – from her half polish father (23). Poland is a white country, and yet this boy made fun of Gurba for having those traits. This situation shows the challenge of growing up in America as a minority, being put down because of the color of her skin. She is judged on the look of her lips because her skin is shades darker than the boy’s was. This exchange alone shows how different Gurba’s life is from most other people, she deals with blind, ignorant racism.
An event that had a big impact on Gurba was when she was molested by her peer, Macaulay. She was touched in broad daylight and did not give any form of consent to allow it (32). She discusses how he used many different ways to make her uncomfortable during class, he even used a pencil sometimes! Their teacher did not do a thing about it, as he just pretended that he didn’t see it and would continue on with the class. The touching still has an impact on Gurba, as she details that the event is always with her, so she’s never “alone” (33). She had to deal with this while growing, and even after maturation, she’s still dealing with the effect of the touching on her mental health. She also brings up how the deaths of Mendieta and Sophia have had an impact on her too, as they were “touched to death by men” (33). The survivor’s guilt she lives with takes a massive toll on her mental health, and stunts progress for her. Not many kids deal with survivor’s guilt while growing up, but here Gurba does and she has to live out the rest of her days with it.
Myriam Gurba has lived a difficult life to this point, she starts out this novel by giving play by play analysis of watching her friend Sophia be raped and murdered on a baseball field. She has faced many difficulties most people don’t have to in their lifetime, and she went through this as a child. Gurba clearly does not fit the normal mold of a girl growing up, she does not fit into any stereotypical social clique (like in the movie Mean Girls). She, despite all this, did persevere and become successful, but still has to live with the survivor’s guilt and PTSD that came from her childhood.
What do you think of the awful events that shaped Gurba’s life?