Mean
Myriam Gurba's debut is the bold and hilarious tale of her coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Mean turns what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, funny, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would cut off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. We act mean because we like to laugh. Being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty. Being mean to men who deserve it is a holy mission. Sisterhood is powerful, but being mean is more exhilarating.Being mean isn't for everybody.Being mean is best practiced by those who understand it as an art form.These virtuosos live closer to the divine than the rest of humanity. They're queers.Myriam Gurba is a queer spoken-word performer, visual artist, and writer from Santa Maria, California. She's the author of Dahlia Season (2007, Manic D) which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, Wish You Were Me (2011, Future Tense Books), and Painting Their Portraits in Winter (2015, Manic D). She has toured with Sister Spit and her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. She lives in Long Beach, where she teaches social studies to eighth-graders.

Mean Details

TitleMean
Author
ReleaseNov 14th, 2017
PublisherCoffee House Press
ISBN-139781566894913
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Lgbt, Glbt, Queer

Mean Review

  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    This was absolutely stunning. The only reason this was not quite a five star read for me was because it took me about 60 pages to find my rhythm with this book (and the book is not particularly long). But once I did, it was beyond incredible. Myriam Gurba has a way of structuring her thoughts, of coming at her point from different angles that I found particularly brilliant. And I might still change my rating. This memoir will for sure stay with me and I can already see it featuring on my best of This was absolutely stunning. The only reason this was not quite a five star read for me was because it took me about 60 pages to find my rhythm with this book (and the book is not particularly long). But once I did, it was beyond incredible. Myriam Gurba has a way of structuring her thoughts, of coming at her point from different angles that I found particularly brilliant. And I might still change my rating. This memoir will for sure stay with me and I can already see it featuring on my best of the year list (which is still a long way off).Myriam Gurba’s tone is abrasive and funny; like my favourite essayists she is unapologetically honest and herself and, yes, sometimes mean. She puts herself at the centre of her art and I adore that (nothing new here). Her art is clever and intellectual without losing an emotional heart, the whole book being intricately structured (not unlike a dance) while still packing a punch you would not believe. The last half builds like crescendo and when I realized what she was leading up to, I was knocked aside – her way of reaching her points from different angles really took me unawares here. The reaction I had cannot be overstated.I cannot recommend this highly enough: if you like memoirs, if you like voices that are unique, if you like to be viscerally moved, if you like good books. This is brilliant. Myriam Gurba is brilliant.
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  • MariNaomi
    January 1, 1970
    Hilarious and brutal. This is a must-read. I mean, damn!
  • Kevin
    January 1, 1970
    A wild, sometimes messy sandwich of a book. Almost like if Kathy Acker tried to write a true crime book. The beginning and end focus intensely on rape and trauma and the middle is more of a scattershot memoir with a lot of weird comedic relief weaved in. Only Myriam could get away with such an audacious creation. She's one of a kind, thank God.
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  • M.
    January 1, 1970
    I reviewed this recently for 4Columns -- here's an excerpt: "“Being mean makes us feel alive,” Myriam Gurba writes in her new book, the memoir Mean. “It’s fun and exciting. Sometimes, it keeps us alive.” Rooted in her experience growing up a queer mixed-race Chicana in a world structured by whiteness, straightness, and misogyny, Gurba’s particular meanness is confrontational, deliberate, and very, very funny. She goes for the throat, then bats the reader playfully on the head."More here! http:// I reviewed this recently for 4Columns -- here's an excerpt: "“Being mean makes us feel alive,” Myriam Gurba writes in her new book, the memoir Mean. “It’s fun and exciting. Sometimes, it keeps us alive.” Rooted in her experience growing up a queer mixed-race Chicana in a world structured by whiteness, straightness, and misogyny, Gurba’s particular meanness is confrontational, deliberate, and very, very funny. She goes for the throat, then bats the reader playfully on the head."More here! http://4columns.org/milks-m/mean
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  • Verity Sturm
    January 1, 1970
    Myriam Gurba’s Mean is a powerful, creative, uproariously candid memoir of a woman between a slew of extremes. Set in the heat of California and adolescence, Mean bluntly unveils the racism, sexual violence, and homophobia braided into a queer Chicana’s coming of age–flavors of hatred that have taught Gurba the vital art of being mean. Featuring art, ghosts, true crime, and a whole lot of black humor, Gurba’s floating prose and topic matter (like herself) refuse to submit to any one genre or for Myriam Gurba’s Mean is a powerful, creative, uproariously candid memoir of a woman between a slew of extremes. Set in the heat of California and adolescence, Mean bluntly unveils the racism, sexual violence, and homophobia braided into a queer Chicana’s coming of age–flavors of hatred that have taught Gurba the vital art of being mean. Featuring art, ghosts, true crime, and a whole lot of black humor, Gurba’s floating prose and topic matter (like herself) refuse to submit to any one genre or form. Mean is a generously honest and refreshingly real ownership of the unjust, bound to challenge readers to recognize the vectors of oppression potentially woven into their own lives and face them with appropriate meanness.
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  • Ellis
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. a bit too brutal for me, and not what i had expected, but the subject matter matters to me.book is about about sexual assault, rape, problems the author faced as a young mexican lesbian, and more. extremely lyrical prose and themed chapters made this an unconventional autobiography.
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  • Mel
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable, enraged, and yet so enthused and sometimes giggly at a memoir as dark as this one. Written in an often poetic style in fits and bursts of brutality and nostalgia— this book is going to make you FEEL. Gurba’s journey is a little too familiar but that’s always what makes her story an important one to hear & remember. Her cheeky style will stay with me. ~TW: Rape/Assault~
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    Review on my website!
  • Elise Karlsson
    January 1, 1970
    "German Jewish toker, hiker and intellectual Walter Benjamin wrote an essay titled 'Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting.' In it, he describes his musty zeal, intoning that 'every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories.' The chaos of memories. The chaos of mammaries. The chaos that comes after being touched. The chaos of penetration. The chaos of breath. The chaos caused by quiet ghosts. The haunting."
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  • Macartney
    January 1, 1970
    Gurba tells us, the readers, over and over how mean she is (ie, unkind and characterized by malice). The book shows her to be anything but. Instead, she's a mean writer (ie, excellent and effective) who has written a mean novel (ie, vexatious; causing trouble or bother) whose words mean (ie, to signify; to intend to convey) something big, particularly in this #metoo moment. What does it mean to be marked as different, whether by sexuality, gender, race or assault? How can you make your story mea Gurba tells us, the readers, over and over how mean she is (ie, unkind and characterized by malice). The book shows her to be anything but. Instead, she's a mean writer (ie, excellent and effective) who has written a mean novel (ie, vexatious; causing trouble or bother) whose words mean (ie, to signify; to intend to convey) something big, particularly in this #metoo moment. What does it mean to be marked as different, whether by sexuality, gender, race or assault? How can you make your story mean something? What does it mean to (be) mean? Great questions, and Gurba pointedly refuses to answer them all. This is an angry, punk novel with a heart and reminded me strongly of WE WERE WITCHES. If these two novels represent where publishing is in 2017, count me in!
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  • Sofia
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsSuch mixed feelings. The writing’s gorgeous in places; she tackles important themes such as sexual violence, race, identity, eating disorders. This book is going to haunt me for a while. At the same time, Gurba comes across as arrogant and nasty towards other women. Too many women are labelled ‘bitches’ and criticised. I will finish this one but I’m tired. I’m tired of women talking about how badly women are treated by society while they put down other women. Enough.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    What a great memoir—it's all voice, but it's an incredibly strong and engaging voice, honest and brutal and super funny. /there were so many good moments of recognition about the ways the exterior world knocks up against the world in your head if you're a particular sort of smart, restless, impatient woman, and Gurba has a pitch-perfect tone for telling you all about it—sort of in between a glint in her eye and a punch on the arm. Really really sharp.
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  • Miriam
    January 1, 1970
    Can I give this six stars? I want to. Nah, I need to - just a few pages in, I knew I'd found my queer intersectional feminist manifesto. Mean is whip-smart, hard-hitting, wildly fun. and totally punk. Thanks for being a fucking rock star, Myriam.I would write a proper review, but all I really want to say is read it. It's important.
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  • kelly
    January 1, 1970
    This is a doozy of a book. It's a non-linear narrative, opening with a violent account of a woman being raped and murdered in a park. Gurba then switches to a host of different topics that are seemingly unrelated to the first but yet still interesting: growing up as a mixed race Chicana, having a family member with mental illness, discovering her identity as a lesbian. Later in the book we discover that the attacker referenced in the first part is the same that would go on to sexually assault Gu This is a doozy of a book. It's a non-linear narrative, opening with a violent account of a woman being raped and murdered in a park. Gurba then switches to a host of different topics that are seemingly unrelated to the first but yet still interesting: growing up as a mixed race Chicana, having a family member with mental illness, discovering her identity as a lesbian. Later in the book we discover that the attacker referenced in the first part is the same that would go on to sexually assault Gurba as a college student. There's a lot of wordplay in this book, particularly around the occurrence of rape. I don't like it. God is like rape. Rape is everywhere too. Rape is in the air. Rape is in the sky... p.98 Gurba writes about 'meanness' as a kind of armor worn by women of color out of necessity. She isn't trying to censor herself or make the reader comfortable with her descriptions and I get it, I really do. But it's still unsettling nonetheless.The writing's decent here. Three and a half stars.
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  • Lisa Eirene
    January 1, 1970
    I'm unsure of how I feel about this book.First, I liked the writing style. It was poetic and stream of consciousness-esque, there was some really powerful and beautiful writing in there.Second, I think the memoir takes on a lot of important topics--racism, culture, sexual assault, harassment, GLBT issues, anorexia, family, recovery and death. "The privilege of surviving doesn't feel good. It makes me feel guilty."But the reason I feel so torn about this book is that I did not like the author's v I'm unsure of how I feel about this book.First, I liked the writing style. It was poetic and stream of consciousness-esque, there was some really powerful and beautiful writing in there.Second, I think the memoir takes on a lot of important topics--racism, culture, sexual assault, harassment, GLBT issues, anorexia, family, recovery and death. "The privilege of surviving doesn't feel good. It makes me feel guilty."But the reason I feel so torn about this book is that I did not like the author's voice at all. She came across as pretentious and condescending and too "mean-girl". I GET the feminist rage. I get that she's angry. I get that she wanted to write about her difficult life experiences -- life changing experiences -- but she just came across as a snotty, snobby, privileged Berkeley chick who just happens to be Latina and gay. Her voice throughout the book is just very off-putting to me. Which is disappointing because it could have been such a good, important book!
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  • Kate Olson
    January 1, 1970
    This book blew. me. away. One minute I was cringing away from the graphic descriptions of sexual assault and the next I was chuckling at the brilliant word play Gurba throws down. This is one of those books that make me feel like I'm not quite cool or smart enough ~ it humbled me and had my brain whirring in overdrive. Hands-down the best book on rape culture I have ever read, but it breaks my heart that I need to have a favorite book about rape. It also covers race, gender, sexuality, feminism, This book blew. me. away. One minute I was cringing away from the graphic descriptions of sexual assault and the next I was chuckling at the brilliant word play Gurba throws down. This is one of those books that make me feel like I'm not quite cool or smart enough ~ it humbled me and had my brain whirring in overdrive. Hands-down the best book on rape culture I have ever read, but it breaks my heart that I need to have a favorite book about rape. It also covers race, gender, sexuality, feminism, and culture in an unflinching, and at times hilarious, way. This one isn't for the faint of heart, but it is a must-read. Thanks to Coffee House Press for the complimentary review copy.
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  • Erik Caswell
    January 1, 1970
    I could gush over this book forever. an instant favorite. I love the short sections, the meandering musings, the super sharp and irreverent insights and observations into whiteness and patriarchy heteronormativity and rape culture and how all these things weave into one another. the power of this and writing like this is that "sociology" and whatever you want to call it is made concrete in peoples lives. there are tiny paragraphs that read more like poetry in the way the implication between the I could gush over this book forever. an instant favorite. I love the short sections, the meandering musings, the super sharp and irreverent insights and observations into whiteness and patriarchy heteronormativity and rape culture and how all these things weave into one another. the power of this and writing like this is that "sociology" and whatever you want to call it is made concrete in peoples lives. there are tiny paragraphs that read more like poetry in the way the implication between the words and lines shoots off the page. it's a short read but a dense read. one of those things where you're like WTF how can you say so much in so little and even so say much in what you don't say. so much to take away. just READ IT. the part about PTSD being only mental illness you can really give to people. that moment in school where the racist white girls end up crying when called out to the teacher and then the teacher makes latinx girls ((and one ally friend)) apologize to THEM. that part about being mean to men being a feminist holy mission. when narrator's gf talks to narrator's dad in that tiny but illuminating paragraph. how sexual assault can happen anywhere including middle school history class in the middle of everyone. how trauma hovers and lurks in invisible places - aisles at the grocery store. floating eyes that you can't prove are there to anyone and so they tell you they don't exist.I will say it ended kind of abruptly / seemed. but everything about this work is sort of abrupt & jarring in the best and most fearless way
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  • christa
    January 1, 1970
    Myriam Gurba’s memoir “Mean” opens with the chase-torture-rape-death of Sophia Torres, a young woman described by some media as “transient.” Gurba and Torres are linked by more than a shared culture: Torres was raped by the same man, but lived to experience the PTSD. In between Torres’ death and the rewind to Gurba’s attack is a coming-of-age in Southern California in the 1980s that sticks to two specific topics: race, sexuality. Gurba is part Mexican and part Polish -- a self-described Molack. Myriam Gurba’s memoir “Mean” opens with the chase-torture-rape-death of Sophia Torres, a young woman described by some media as “transient.” Gurba and Torres are linked by more than a shared culture: Torres was raped by the same man, but lived to experience the PTSD. In between Torres’ death and the rewind to Gurba’s attack is a coming-of-age in Southern California in the 1980s that sticks to two specific topics: race, sexuality. Gurba is part Mexican and part Polish -- a self-described Molack. In the early chapters -- which are short, dark humored, sometimes poetic, she considers the racial reactions of her peers. A neighbor makes a “Mexican” casserole when she stays overnight; One of her first teacher’s assumes she can’t speak English; The girls in her elementary school call her a “wetback,” but during the classroom come-to-Jesus, it is Gurba who must apologize for making the white girls cry. Gurba grows up near Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, and one section features a Jackson character hanging at the local arcade. This sets the tone for the sexual assaults happening in this time and place. It’s not just the stranger who attackers in the park on her way home from volunteer work, there is also the classmate with his fingers in her pants during History class and the neighbor who has abused young boys in the neighborhood. Gurba’s story is dark and her voice is dry, maybe a necessity when considering the racial absurdities, the sexual assaults, the survivor’s guilt. Her words are gorgeous. Concise, but fully formed images. She’s interesting, and she plots an occasionally well-timed time-out, a character revelation. Entire chapters are a single sentence: How she spent her summer trying not to strangle Christians or the four college courses she’s taking that semester, in the collegiate course-catalogue shorthand. In the chapter titled “Something I Often Reflect On as An Adult Woman,” she writes: “I still have unserved detentions.” More, please.
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  • Will
    January 1, 1970
    Myriam Gurba's funky lil' memoir packs a wallop. With a format almost reminiscent of Maggie Nelson's Argonauts, Gurba embarks in telling the story of her childhood as a woman of color in inland California. In stark, honest, hilarious, and frequently dark bursts Gurba reconciles with childhood sexual violence, queerness, and the realities of growing up mixed race. One of the things that makes this book so distinctive to me is Gurba's ability to imbue humor into all of her recollections. This does Myriam Gurba's funky lil' memoir packs a wallop. With a format almost reminiscent of Maggie Nelson's Argonauts, Gurba embarks in telling the story of her childhood as a woman of color in inland California. In stark, honest, hilarious, and frequently dark bursts Gurba reconciles with childhood sexual violence, queerness, and the realities of growing up mixed race. One of the things that makes this book so distinctive to me is Gurba's ability to imbue humor into all of her recollections. This does not take away from the seriousness of her subject matter at all but rather, I felt, places it neatly into the steep, often comical, juxtapositions of the world. I also quite liked the way that Gurba broke up the story often dividing her already small chapters into paragraphs or solo sentences. It certainly broke up the text but instead of making the author's storytelling disjointed, I found it to truly emphasize parts of the story. I highly recommend to other fans of memoir or anyone seeking more accounts of queer woman of color. I can't wait to read more of Gurba's work.
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  • Stefanie
    January 1, 1970
    For some reason I thought this was a novel and was twenty pages in before I noticed the cover said it was a memoir. Gurba tells a harsh story, she has good reason to be mean. She is sharp and witty and her sarcastic humor is fantastic:By eighth grade, being called a ho was water off my wet back. I was a paradoxical ho, though, a bookworm ho with a fading Mexican complexion. Young people of color are supposed to enjoy looting and eating trans fats, not sustained reading, but I found a way to reco For some reason I thought this was a novel and was twenty pages in before I noticed the cover said it was a memoir. Gurba tells a harsh story, she has good reason to be mean. She is sharp and witty and her sarcastic humor is fantastic:By eighth grade, being called a ho was water off my wet back. I was a paradoxical ho, though, a bookworm ho with a fading Mexican complexion. Young people of color are supposed to enjoy looting and eating trans fats, not sustained reading, but I found a way to reconcile my assigned stereotype with my passions. I microwaved nachos and ate them while reading Jackie Collins paperbacks I stole from my mother--trans fats, looting, and literature.Rape, guilt, grief, racism, sexism, homophobia are just a few of the big things Gurba writes about. Highly recommend this book.
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  • Terry
    January 1, 1970
    I can see why Michelle Tea (of whom I'm a fan) is a fan of Gurba--and if you like Michelle Tea (which I do!), then you'll definitely love Gurba's writing. I loved this book (I'm not sure if I'd call it a memoir or a collection)--Gurba has an exceedingly dry but both clever and caustic wit, and there's something just this side of magical realism in her style...almost dreamy, or dream-like, while describing heartbreaking events. The opening piece almost put me off of the book--it's brutal and unco I can see why Michelle Tea (of whom I'm a fan) is a fan of Gurba--and if you like Michelle Tea (which I do!), then you'll definitely love Gurba's writing. I loved this book (I'm not sure if I'd call it a memoir or a collection)--Gurba has an exceedingly dry but both clever and caustic wit, and there's something just this side of magical realism in her style...almost dreamy, or dream-like, while describing heartbreaking events. The opening piece almost put me off of the book--it's brutal and uncomfortable to read--but once you're read the whole book, you understand why it's the first piece (and why she writes about the woman and the event). This is definitely for mature high schoolers and older, with a content warning for sexual abuse, sexual violence, and disordered eating.
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  • Li Sian
    January 1, 1970
    I wasn't expecting to like 'Mean' as much as I did? Lots of the reviews of 'Mean' centered on meanness as a response to structural injustice; meanness (implied) as feminist praxis. Which I've definitely come to be skeptical of over the years. BUT 'Mean' is about way more than justifying 'meanness' - it's a memoir, it's true crime, and it's a ghost story. I love all three genres, and I loved Gurba's voice: loud, wisecracking, and slightly performative. I read that she was a spoken word performer, I wasn't expecting to like 'Mean' as much as I did? Lots of the reviews of 'Mean' centered on meanness as a response to structural injustice; meanness (implied) as feminist praxis. Which I've definitely come to be skeptical of over the years. BUT 'Mean' is about way more than justifying 'meanness' - it's a memoir, it's true crime, and it's a ghost story. I love all three genres, and I loved Gurba's voice: loud, wisecracking, and slightly performative. I read that she was a spoken word performer, which makes sense. In a good way! Also, that ending packed a punch. If 'Mean' is about meanness, compassion gets at least as much play.
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  • Sylvia
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved this book. This is an edgy lyrical memoir in which Gurba unfolds what it is to grow up as a Molack (mexican and polack) and become a queer feminist artist who is chased by ghosts (public and personal) (nice and mean). Written in short vignettes this is as much a coming of age as it is a solid essay about womanhood, culture, art, heritage, individuality.A wonderful-whimsical writer that plays with language, form, and meanness.
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  • Miranda Hency
    January 1, 1970
    This book was poetic and surprising, and showcased truly mean things--the trauma of rape and the guilt of surviving when others don't. I liked the timeline of the book, its short chapters, and Myriam Gurba's voice. This is a book of growth and survival and violence and strength.
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  • TaraShea Nesbit
    January 1, 1970
    This book is fierce. Queer, funny, mean, loving. Fierce. The look at sexual trauma and how we as writers narrate trauma is a master class in preserving the self while describing the event. Gurba is able to have a reader laughing about the most traumatic of events, which is a kind of mode for showing healing. (I know I've recovered/"mastered" when my writing can include the humor of even the direst of situations.)Fave lines:"I know I can be mean, but I also want to be likable. I just don't want t This book is fierce. Queer, funny, mean, loving. Fierce. The look at sexual trauma and how we as writers narrate trauma is a master class in preserving the self while describing the event. Gurba is able to have a reader laughing about the most traumatic of events, which is a kind of mode for showing healing. (I know I've recovered/"mastered" when my writing can include the humor of even the direst of situations.)Fave lines:"I know I can be mean, but I also want to be likable. I just don't want to be so likable anyone wants to rape me.""The white girl looked at something beyond us, at something we couldn't see. Maybe the white privilege fairy. She was steadfast in her colonization."
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  • Chloe
    January 1, 1970
    So good. Funny, tragic, horrifying, beautiful. The author's wry narration style makes the entire book a joy to read, even the ugly parts.
  • Ruth
    January 1, 1970
    Soooo tough & mean & snarky but also soooo honest & vulnerable & confused. It's hard not to like that mix.
  • Joanna
    January 1, 1970
    SUPERB
  • Andrea Quinlan
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Phenomenal! You'll love and devour this and want to read it again in quick succession.
  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    Art is one way to work out touch gone wrong.
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