Poly Teacher Calls Out “Pendeja” and Sparks Social Movements

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Government, Economics and AP Psychology teacher, Myriam Gurba, has become an internet sensation. Her witty and no filter review of the book American Dirt titled “Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature” published in late December caused controversy due to its candidness and repulsion towards a book previously adulated for its portrayal of the struggles of Mexican immigrants crossing the border.

The book, written by American author Jeanine Cummins, went so far as to become a part of Oprah’s Book Club and was publicly supported by Latina actresses such as Salma Hayek and Yalitza Aparicio and even renowned Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros.

Gurba however insists that the novel is nothing other than “trauma porn that wears a social justice fig leaf.” In her review, Gurba thoroughly describes the inaccuracies and ignorance of Cummins’ narrative, saying that she writes superficially of Mexican stereotypes in an attempt to give a face to the “faceless brown masses.” (An introduction which Gurba cringes at).

Gurba’s review, which had previously been rejected by a feminist magazine due to its lack of redeeming qualities, was the first negative feedback for the novel which sparked the uproar of indignant Latinx authors and activists who also rejected it. Amongst which is the social movement #DignidadLiteraria that “redefines and affirms the experiences of writers. It is our intention to see more of us writing ourselves into history. Our community amplifies the Brown & Black voices that make up its fabric and creates space for all people of color,” according to Presente.org‘s member-led campaign platform: “¡SOMOS!”

Since its publication, Gurba has gained international attention and public recognition. She has been interviewed by the Long Beach Post, LA Times, Latino USA at NPR, and spoken at a panel organized by her group #DignidadLiteraria, amongst many more.

She admits that the amount of fame and interviews have been overwhelming due to the speed at which it happened and the type of attention she has received. She has even been recognized in public which she said has made her want to hide.

This was not what she had expected when she first published the review. Gurba said that she thought the review would simply run in the magazine that had originally invited her to write it and that it might perhaps dissuade a handful of people from reading the book.

“Nobody is prepared for that type of attention,” said Gurba, ”but I am also thrilled that people seem to have been politically activated and awakened by a lot of the discourse surrounding the review.”

Amidst the growing attention, Gurba and the people involved in the same movement have also been receiving very specific death threats since the day the review was published. The threats are of very graphic, sexual and violent nature.

In response to the threats, #DignidadLiteraria has created a “Death Threat Quilt” to expose the ugly truth about the susceptibility marginalized writers have to these threats. Gurba said that the reason she has been very proactive about these threats is that Flatiron (the publisher of Cummins’ book) had said that Cummins had received threats which were then proven to be false. An editor admitted during a meeting with #DignidadLiteraria that there had been no threats.

Gurba said that the review seemed to “tap into the frustration and anger that Latinos living in the United States have been enduring for a long time.” After seeing her express her anger people were inspired to express their own discontent.

Ultimately, Gurba alongside #DignidadLiteraria intends to “transform publishing and continue doing the work to dismantle white supremacy in publishing companies.”

“We need to work on removing the hostility [towards marginalized writers],” said Gurba, “and essentially remove the border wall these companies have created.”