When I read Myriam Gurba’s Painting Their Portraits in Winter last year I got that special book-soul-mate feeling that the best books give you, a sense that someone really GETS you, and the universe. Because I can never love anything without going full fangirl, I knew I had to reach out to Myriam for an interview, which– lucky you!– you get read below.
Myriam Gurba, Ms. Gurba, if you’re nasty, is a native Santa Marian. She attended U.C. Berkeley thanks to affirmative action. She is the author of two short story collections, Dahlia Season and Painting Their Portraits in Winter. Dahlia Season won the Edmund White Award, which is given to queer writers for outstanding debut fiction. The book was also shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award. Gurba is also the author of two poetry collections, Wish You Were Me and Sweatsuits of the Damned. She has toured North America twice with avant-garde literary and performance troupe Sister Spit. Gurba’s other writing can be found in places such as Entropy.com, TIME.com, and Lesfigues.com. She creates digital and photographic art that has been exhibited at galleries and museums.
Gina Abelkop: My first question has to be about one of my favorite things about your writing: your sense of humor. It’s silly, smart, biting, and joyful even in stories and poems that are emotionally taut. How and on what teeth was this sense of humor cut? Who are some of your favorite humorists and what is it that you love about their humor and/or work?
Myriam Gurba: My sense of humor was primarily sculpted by the sickest people I know: HELLO MOM AND DAD. My dad likes to joke about the horrific, like free-range children and customer service, and by example, he taught me that these are the things you are supposed to laugh about. My mom is different. She’s more elf than human. She doesn’t say funny things; she says things funny. For example, she’ll tell a story about getting into a car accident but she’ll refer to her car as her mystique since she actually drives a Mercury Mystique and her story will take on this exciting, Daliesque quality because imagine a normal conversation about a car accident but replace the word car with mystique. My parents, however, aren’t into queef jokes. In fact, I’m not even sure they could name a queef though I’m certain they’re familiar with the sound. In high school, I was socially attracted to girls who got accused of being unfeminine since they were funny and gross and so they shaped me, too. Boys accused me of not being feminine and of having too big of lips. My favorite funny people are people I know. My boyfriend makes me giggle. When I have low blood sugar and am surrounded by whites, everything gets hilarious. I appreciate humor that is gross, goofy, self-conscious, and, above all, humiliating. As far as publicly funny people go, I like Carol Burnett, Gilda Radner, Cardi B, Kristen Wiig pretending to be Bjork, Peter Sellers, Cheech Marin, Chris Rock and angry teenagers.