RaveBookforumSo powerfully does Gurba capture this strange, seasick feeling—of good places unexpectedly turning into bad ones, suddenly having to stretch to include the worst thing that’s happened to her—that it pervades not only the rest of the book but everything that came before it ... If part of Mean is a record of these past silences, a tape people tried to erase, then its flip side is the sound of what was suppressed—the voices of Gurba and the kids she grew up with, brown and queer and female voices, voices that don’t always speak English. As we follow Gurba from early childhood to young adulthood, we listen to these people speaking loudly and hilariously and truthfully. Gurba has a special skill for capturing the sly friendships of young children, and the way so much adolescent intimacy derives from shared conspiracy.
PanThe New YorkerBarker is known as a war writer, but she might be better understood as an observer of institutions: hospitals, prisons, schools. She is at her best when she can organize her story within such an institution, and has a Rivers or a Tonks to guide its telling—when she puts us in the hands of professionals. In Noonday, unfortunately, nobody has been put in charge... All sorts of rich and terrible details are caught up in the sweeping panorama that Barker produces—horses galloping away from an explosion, their manes and tails on fire; a dog hiding behind a bed with a dead couple—but there is nothing that, in Elinor’s words, we don’t know how to look at.