Interview: Myriam Gurba

MyriamMyriam Gurba is a high school teacher who lives in Long Beach, California, home of Snoop Dogg and the Queen Mary (as she gamely notes). She graduated from UC Berkeley, and her writing has appeared in anthologies such as The Best American EroticaBottom’s UpSecrets and Confidences, and Tough Girls. Gurba’s first book is Dahlia Season, a collection of short stories and a novella. (Bio from La Bloga).

TCJWW: I loved your piece, “Squirtle.” It was so frank and humorous and, like much of your writing, touched on topics that female writers and women in general tend to avoid. What made you start writing about such off-limit topics?

Gurba: I seem to get extreme pleasure—always have—from having a toilet mouth and a toilet mind. That, therefore, makes for toilet writing. I don’t understand why more people don’t revel in the gross. The gross can be very stimulating and who doesn’t like some easy stimulation?

TCJWW: Your poem, “Impostor,” struck me because it sounded like so much of what the rest of the novella is about: the harsh and unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves, versus how we actually look and feel. What makes you feel like an impostor and what inspired this piece?

Gurba: I feel like an impostor when I pretend to be my sister. Just kidding! I’ve never done that. She already has one twin; she doesn’t need another. But I did once fail to disguise myself as a man in order to sneak into a men’s bathhouse, Steamworks. They detected my vagina at the door and wouldn’t let me proceed. I guess what inspired the poem is the weird standards and expectations about identity that arise even in really insular, queer spaces that one would think would embrace the totality of our precious snowflakiness. Julia Serrano does an amazing job of discussing these spaces, and the weird, exclusive standards they can perpetuate, in her book Excluded.

TCJWW: You label yourself as Mexican and gay, but you also seem disgusted with labels in pieces like “Irrigation,” “Wish You Were Me,” and “Impostor.” Why did you feel that it is important to label yourself and highlight the negative aspects of your gender, nationality, and sex in your writing?

Gurba: I seem disgusted with labels? Whoa. I don’t think I’m as disgusted with labels, since words are labels and labels are words and I love words, as I am with definitions. Narrow definitions suck toe jam. Like people sometimes flip out that I’m Mexican and yet have green eyes. It’s not my job to change my eye color to accommodate people’s discomfort. It’s their job to accommodate me by re-writing their definition to include me. Actually, I really like labels. Is there a difference between a word versus a label? I’m very curious about this now. The word label is a word but is the label word a label? I don’t know. Something to obsess about while on the toilet later on tonight.

TCJWW: You have self-published and published with Future Tense Books and Manic D. Which avenue do you enjoy more?

Gurba: I like both but they each have their charms and harms. Self-publishing is fun because you can do anything with a copy machine. Working with a publisher is cool for all the help they give in getting your book into the world. Getting your book to penetrate the world can be tough.

TCJWW: Why do you love bunnies so much?

Gurba: I love bunnies so much because I had two, Scratch and Siddartha. They were BFFs and died recently. Siddartha totally lived up to his name, and Scratch was an asshole, but they were my friends. I miss them so. Their ashes sit on my mantle along with my uncle’s iguana’s ashes and a Captain Kangaroo puzzle.

TCJWW: What are you working on now?

Gurba: I’m working on the final edits of a short story collection, Painting Their Portraits in Winter, which will be released by Manic D in spring 2015. The stories deal with the supernatural feminine and the supernatural feminist big time. They explore misogyny and they channel misogynistic ghosts. Death lurks around every comma. There is also a lot of fruity symbolism.

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