Find the Light

Mean is a story told from personal experiences by the author, Myriam Gurba. Since Gurba is seen as “different” from typical society, she is able to tell stories about what is was like growing up being queer and mixed race. I enjoyed some parts of this book because of her use of dark humor. For example, Gurba writes, “blond can be sexy. Blond can be innocent. Blonds get to have more fun. Blonds get to embody duality. Brunettes don’t get this privilege. Brunettes are doomed to ho and hoe” (Gurba, 38). I thought this was funny because of the classic saying, “blondes have more fun”. This saying correlates to how it’s more “beautiful” to be blond and how people with darker hair are to be soon as boring. Gurba pokes fun at this belief by saying brunettes are hoes. It’s funny how some believe hair color relates to one’s inner self.

Gurba also brings in humor when she talks about her experience in gym class. The girls wore “booty shorts” (Gurba, 41) and had to do “humiliating pose(s)” (Gurba, 41). She makes fun of the kids who went too try hard in P.E.     She says, “kids who took p.e seriously took off like kids who took p.e seriously. The rest of us jogged with the intensity of overcooked spaghetti.  Kids who took p.e seriously were assholes” (Gurba, 40). Gurba talking about p.e class attracts readers because of how relatable these situations are. Typically, there is always a split between kids who try hard in gym class and kids who don’t. Between the two groups, there is tension. One group making fun of the other for trying and one group making fun of the other for not trying. It made me laugh and understand what Gurba was saying through her use of humor. She trys to make her experiences relatable for all the different kind of people reading her story. Clearly, not one person has the same experience as another but through her use of humor, she tries to get all the readers to understand each other. She also brings up the first time she was mooned by boys in gym class. The ones who mooned the girls are typical, immauture boys. This allows readers to relate wether they were the immature boy or dealt with immature boys.

Gurba brings up a blond stereotype again in her expeiences. Her friend Ida said to her, “‘I know how you feel…I’m blond. I’m sick of the jokes” (Gurba, 64). Ida is claiming she understands how Gurba feels because of her hair color. Clearly, Gurba has a lot more differences than the people she’s surronded by. Ida tries to pity herself by claiming she knows the feelings of the hatred Gurba has to deal with. Gurba says, “maybe Ida was calling to tell me something dumb. Like that reverse racism was real” (Gurba, 64). I laughed while reading this because there is no such thing as reverse racism and Gurba thinks Ida is stupid enough to think it is real. I think Ida is a symbol of typical, white girls in society. They think that their hair being blond determines who they really are inside. Gurba uses humor to poke fun at these stereotypes of young girls. They’re immature and don’t quite understand the reality of life, yet.

Gurba’s story was interesting to read because of her use of humor. I was able to understand and engage in her story because of how she talked about her experiences. She tried to make light of some situations and make readers laugh. I think the ability to let yourself laugh is crucial in this world. You can’t let horrible experiences ruin your life. I think Gurba tries to add humor so she can sometimes forget about the true horror she has experienced.

Why do you think it’s important for Gurba to add humor into her story?

Did you find any other situtations where Gurba uses humor to lighten up situations?


8 thoughts on “Find the Light”

  1. I really liked the humor in this book as well. At first, I honestly didn’t think I could read this book and enjoy it. The first few pages were very graphic and it made me angry to read the words. At the same time though, I also really loved the metaphors from the beginning, despite how gruesome they were. I think this is a very unique book, as you said.

    You mention great examples of Gurba’s dark humor, and with your blog post title being “Find the Light” I think it’s really neat that you decided to focus on her dark humor. I like it because through this dark humor, Gurba is doing exactly that, trying to find the light among situations that as a child, she probably didn’t understand as much. I’m sure as a child, Gurba wasn’t thinking in the ways she depicts in her writing.

    Another great example of Gurba’s dark humor is, “I got that it was important for Dad to go be with Mom, and I kind of got that something very bad might be happening, something that might prevent my mom from ever coming back, but I wasn’t upset by it. I was excited. The abandonment felt like an adventure” (8). It’s really odd, especially because she was a young child at the time she experienced this, that Gurba would refer to being abandoned as an adventure. However, I think it supports the claim you make that, “Gurba tries to add humor so she can sometimes forget about the true horror she has experienced.”

  2. I also think that the narrator is using this dark humor as a way to cope with the trauma she experiences, stemming from the difficulties of growing up as mixed race to sexual assaults. An example of her usage of dark humor provokes the thought of stereotypes amongst Hispanics and homosexuals, “He was joking of course. Mom didn’t have AIDS. My gay cousin did” (Gurba 21). This leaves you wondering if the dad is ashamed that the moms cousin has AIDS, the mom does actually have the virus, or if the dad is accusing the mom solely to demean her because of her ethnicity. The narrator describes her dad as joking in this situation when he was obviously being serious. Another way she internally fights her traumatic experiences is through her meanness.

  3. Another quote I found correlates with your idea of dark humor. Gurba writes, “Since he was blue-eyed, and likely had a penis, everyone had taken Mr. Hand seriously” (24). Here, she uses dark humor to show that because her teacher was a male, everyone showed him respect. Had he been a woman though, it is inferred that he would not have been shown the same respect and obedience.

  4. I also concur that the humor in this book helps the story flow and keeps the reader interested. In fact, I didn’t like the novel until I read further and actually laughed out loud. I think it’s important for Gurba to include this dark humor, because aside from keeping the reader interested, the dark humor helps us (as well as the narrator) see the good in the darkness. Gurba is racially profiled and called mean names, but uses the dark humor in order to help her trudge through it. In the lunchroom , a kid talks about Gurba’s lips, referring to an African American slur (23). She then pokes fun at herself, making humor towards her father, explaining she has her puffy lips because she’s polish. Overall, the humor in the novel creates an atmosphere whereabout nothing actually mean in the book can be taken seriously. Good post !!

  5. In Mean, Gruba uses humor as a coping mechanism. Another situation where Gruba uses humor to lighten up the mood is when she compares the molester to a mole with a snout. Gruba says” The hand Macaulay wasn’t molesting with rose to his snout. Four of its fingers curled into a circle with the index finger pointing at the ceiling” (25). It’s interesting that Gruba refers to the molester as “it”. I think that Gruba does this as a way to imagine the situation as not so horrible. Referring to the molester as nonhuman could make Gruba feel less tormented by the situation.

  6. Humor most certainly seen in this book, but not the type of humor that would make you laugh out loud. It is dark dry humor that only certain minds would find funny. There are many examples of Gurba playing with humor, one that stood out to me was “Reading about morality had made me thirsty” (16). Such a simple line, yet it’s funny because it doesn’t really make sense. Morality did not actually make her thirsty, but saying this line in the context of what she is talking about made it humorous. After she gives examples of the gruesome brutality that she was reading in the book, showing how she adds humor in specific spots to lighten up a brutal topic. Another humorous moment in this book is on page 32, when Gurba says “If Duchamp could place a urinal in an art gallery and thus elevate it, I can do the same thing with myself”. I originally did not understand the reference, but after looking up who exactly Duchamp is, this line became funnier. He is known as the father of Conceptual art, finding a deeper meaning than just the finished product. I found this line funny because he literally put a urinal in an art show, and made a message out of it. Her relating herself to this work is extremely funny, and I am looking forward to seeing how else she can make us laugh.

  7. Gurba adds humor to the text in order to shine light on difficult topics to discuss. One line I found humorous is “I spent the summer before I left for college peeing in a Mexican desert and trying not to strangle christians. (69)” I found this line funny because it was the only line on this page. Gurba added humor to the fact that she has different religious beliefs than her peers. I agree with you about how humor makes the book more interesting.

  8. I think the importance of Gurba using humor in her story is partially to help her move on from the memory. Adding a lightness to a tragic incident lowers the significance of it. If something bad happens, you can always add humor to it so that you’re subconciously trying to supress the memory.

    This is shown when she writes, “In my grim reverie, I think, ‘She’s the capital of Bulgaria. I love Bulgarian yogurt. So rich, so tart, so mean. So grown up.'” (3). Here, she is talking about Sophia. Gurba is thinking of what happened to Sophia and turns it into something light and almost fluffy to ease her mind about it.

    Humor is a coping mechanism that many people use. Some may deem it to be inappropriate, but for others, it’s all they have to hold on to. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a silver lining than just have a super dark cloud.

    Excellent blog post! 🙂

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