The book entitled Mean, by Myriam Gurba, expresses ideas concerning victimization, consequences, and memory. The end of the book only reinforces this, while providing specific examples. Gurba discusses how she became a victim of sexual assault. The end of the book is where readers get to see some of the consequences of being a victim and the power that a memory holds.
Gurba goes on about her life and talks about various events that occur throughout it. Towards the end of the book, Gurba is past the point of discussing her assault but goes into topic of ideas she plans to carry out. She states, “It seemed like a good idea to have sex with someone and ruin his family. I wanted to see whether or not my pussy had the mettle for this. Males had co-opted my genitalia to prove their destructive powers, and I felt it was time to reclaim their destructive powers for my own use” (146). By this, Gurba is seeking out revenge on men. Because of her sexual assault, she feels she wants to turn the male’s destructive powers around on themselves. She is looking to hurt them, in a different way than they hurt her, but still in a powerfully painful way.
Memory holds a lot of power as well. Part of the consequences of victimization is a memory and it’s lingering presence. Gurba also experiences the power of a memory and what it can do to the brain. She states, “I really like the phrase ‘the chaos of memories’. My spirit latches onto it and wraps its arms around its queer, hairy legs. The phrase expresses what kind of happens to your brain during and after trauma. Chaos roots itself into the memory. My chaos came when a Mexican man sexually assaulted me on a sidewalk in the afternoon sun” (154). Gurba found a quote that she can relate to; ‘the chaos of memories.’ Her assault has left her scared with trauma, we know this because of this quote. She says that chaos roots itself into the memory and that her chaos came after her assault. The simple fact that she brought up the assault again and discusses how it digs itself into one’s memory shows how she was affected by this. She continues to bring up her assault throughout the book, this is a side effect of her trauma. Not only does the memory of the assault stick with her, but also the memory of the girl who was murdered by the same man who assaulted her. Gurba says,”…but dead and dying girls have a way of taking up vivid residence in the post-traumatic brain” (164). This is yet another side effect of trauma and the power of memory. Gurba is constantly thinking about these negative topics that have to do with her assault. She will be forever affected by this.
However, this effect may have to do with her love of history. She says, “Yeah, history class was where I got molested. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop taking history classes. I really love history. Everything has a history” (150). Despite her negative history, Gurba is interested in learning all about history. Shortly after this is mentioned, we find out that she becomes a history teacher (162). This is ironic considering how badly influenced her memory and history were to her. It may not be good for her to be teaching history because it could institute thought for her past. Negative thoughts could have the potential to be picked up quickly.
- Is there a memory that had an impact on you? (it can be good or bad) What was that impact?
- What are some of your own examples you could find from the book (pages 145-175) concerning ‘the power of memory’?