A collection of essays extends and expands on the themes introduced in the author's highly regarded memoir, Monsoon Mansion (2018).
Barnes' first book introduced a gifted writer with a compelling story about her life in the Philippines. After her father left the family, her mother became unstable. The author was adopted by an American family, but the law said she was too old for the necessary paperwork, so she remained an undocumented teenager, working jobs that paid her in cash—e.g., cleaning houses, taking care of children, working at a laundry and at a cafe. Her schoolwork promised a pathway out, and she did well, particularly after switching to a journalism major and finding her voice and the stories that only she could tell. Barnes married a fellow graduate student, a white man raised in the South, who was the first in his family to marry a woman of color. Then the couple had a baby girl, a mixed-race child in the South, and questions of belonging and assimilation became exponentially more complicated. "He's well aware of the sadness of this place," the author writes of her husband, "how lonely it must be for me—an outsider who married someone who also feels like an outsider." He says that it kills him to know that here, I talk, but without the freedom to speak about topics that interest me." Though childbirth brought emotional trauma and postpartum depression, it also opened the creative floodgates. "My body had given birth to a human, but my body also wanted to expel something more," writes Barnes. "It wanted to flush out the accumulation of hurt and sorrow and fear, three things all immigrants pack with them….My memories let out onto paper and bled onto the page as words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs." Those paragraphs became essays, and those collected here have enough cohesion and continuity that they could almost pass as a second volume of memoir.
A sturdy transitional volume that finds Barnes reflecting on her first and anticipating her next.
A collection of essays extends and expands on the themes introduced in the author’s highly regarded memoir, Monsoon Mansion (2018). Barnes’s first book introduced a gifted writer with a compelling story about her life in the Philippines…A sturdy transitional volume that finds Barnes reflecting on her first and anticipating her next.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Barnes’s stirring follow-up to her memoir, Monsoon Mansion…continues her life story by sharing her life in America while undocumented…Barnes’s story is unforgettable, and highly relevant to 2019 America.” —Publishers Weekly
“Malaya, is a book on the uncompromising, unrelenting pursuit of a better life—to be free of fear and worries. These desires are universal. We are all immigrants in constant quest for freedom. Cinelle Barnes, Filipino American author, inspires with her endurance. But, like all stories, freedom is merely the beginning. For Barnes, life continues. This time, Barnes is ready. Her freedom empowers her.” —Positively Filipino
“Malaya is Barnes’s literary path forward, and for the reader, it is literary delight. The essays reflect interwoven threads but each sings with a unique, and effective, style—there’s a playfulness of form and chronology that keeps the reader engaged. We are with Barnes when she’s scrubbing toilets and working in a laundromat; when she’s nannying for a Wall Street family; when she’s dodging INS at a hipster cafe in Harlem; when she’s navigating white privilege and racism with her in-laws in the Upstate. And in each setting, each essay, through each beautifully crafted line and deftly chosen image, we not only begin to understand her experience better, but our own.” —Charleston City Paper
“Cinelle Barnes considers how the chaos and discipline of dance kept the disparate parts of her being stitched together.” —Longreads
“The most effective pieces of Barnes’s collection render the ‘personal as political’ via sharp details and wide lens, such as the essay, ‘Genealogy,’ which opens with the family history (of white settlers and sons and daughters of the Confederacy) of Barnes’s husband and develops into Barnes’s interrogation of that history via her own personal history of first meeting, eventually marrying into, and forever changing this family. ‘Genealogy’ is demonstrative of the collection’s finest qualities and the power of the personal essay to refract the intersections of complex histories, our present moments, and our agency (or lack thereof) therein…” —International Examiner
“Cinelle Barnes steps into the full power of her voice with Malaya. In this collection of deftly woven and deeply resonant essays, Barnes intertwines past and present as she reflects on the daily realities of those who are undocumented, the healing powers of dance and memoir, and the fears and joys of raising a brown daughter in a country in denial about the depths of its own racism. Told in sharp, luminous prose, Malaya reminds us of how vital this (re)birthing process we call writing truly is. With compassion and conviction, Barnes bears witness to stories that so often go untold—and asserts the possibility of a world where those we love have the freedom to tell their own.” —Zeyn Joukhadar, author of The Map of Salt and Stars
“In Malaya, Cinelle Barnes asks the essential question: How do we free ourselves? Her essays explore what it means to live authentically as a woman, a person of color, an immigrant, a human being, not in the hands or eyes of others but in her own heart. Barnes tells her story with clarity and honesty and, in doing so, clears a path for the rest of us to follow.” —Victoria Loustalot, author of Future Perfect: A Skeptic’s Search for an Honest Mystic, Living like Audrey: Life Lessons from the Fairest Lady of All, and This Is How You Say Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir
“I’m sure many readers of Malaya will focus on words like strength, resolve, and pride, but I’m most taken by Barnes’s radical deploying of surrender in these essays. The book is neither solipsistic nor rooted in brittle hope. Instead it’s a textured meditation on how embodied acceptance and surrender are often the most radical of gestures when it comes to provocative art making.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir, Long Division, and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
“‘I write because I am the last to remember,’ Cinelle Barnes tells us in her essay ‘Why I Write Memoir.’ Malaya is a sensitive, vibrant book that will help so many of us remember and reflect on the stories we shouldn’t forget. Barnes’s deft writing crosses gaps in time, understanding, and experience, illuminating important truths about our country and culture while also allowing us to bear witness to her own fight for healing, justice, and belonging. Malaya is a book we need, and Cinelle Barnes is a writer to treasure.” —Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know