With its icy wit, edgy wedding of lyricism and prose, and unflinching look at personal and public demons, Gurba’s...

MEAN

A gritty memoir exploring gender politics and growing up mixed-race Chicana.

Gifted experimental writer Gurba (Painting Their Portraits in Winter, 2015, etc.) takes a hard look back at her adolescent and early college years in Southern California. A self-described “early-onset feminist,” the author is deeply invested in and intimately aware of the construction of identity. As she explores with wry humor the history of her attraction to women—“I grabbed a magazine and realized boobs were the best thing ever….I was eight but I knew what I wanted”—and how the unique blending of her mother’s Mexican heritage with her father’s Mexican-Polish roots framed her “Molack” (“Mexican” and “Polack”) worldview and influenced her studies at the University of California, she also tells the harrowing story of Sophia Castro Torres, another Chicana, whose fate was less kind. Early in the narrative, which unfolds in spare prose vignettes, Gurba writes, “guilt is a ghost,” and she admits that she is haunted by the memory of Sophia, a migrant worker who was raped and bludgeoned to death on a baseball diamond in Gurba’s hometown. The author not only feels compelled to bear witness to the horrific end of an innocent woman who supported herself picking strawberries and whose life was further erased by the media by being dubbed “a transient”; through the use of inverted chronology, she also slowly reveals her own struggles with PTSD—“the only mental illness you can give someone”—as a survivor of sexual assault by the same perpetrator who killed Sophia. Positioning herself as “the final girl,” the one in horror movies who “gets to live” but “understands that her job is to tell the story,” Gurba attempts to break down walls of indifference, whether through form or probing content.

With its icy wit, edgy wedding of lyricism and prose, and unflinching look at personal and public demons, Gurba’s introspective memoir is brave and significant.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56689-491-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

more