One of our recommended books is A Measure of Belonging by Cinelle Barnes

A MEASURE OF BELONGING

Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South


This fierce collection celebrates the incredible diversity in the contemporary South by featuring essays by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working in the region today, who all address a central question: Who is welcome?

Kiese Laymon navigates the racial politics of publishing while recording his audiobook in Mississippi. Regina Bradley moves to Indiana and grapples with a landscape devoid of her Southern cultural touchstones, like Popeyes and OutKast. Aruni Kashyap apartment hunts in Athens and encounters a minefield of invasive questions. Frederick McKindra delves into the particularly Southern history of Beyonce’s black majorettes.

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This fierce collection celebrates the incredible diversity in the contemporary South by featuring essays by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working in the region today, who all address a central question: Who is welcome?

Kiese Laymon navigates the racial politics of publishing while recording his audiobook in Mississippi. Regina Bradley moves to Indiana and grapples with a landscape devoid of her Southern cultural touchstones, like Popeyes and OutKast. Aruni Kashyap apartment hunts in Athens and encounters a minefield of invasive questions. Frederick McKindra delves into the particularly Southern history of Beyonce’s black majorettes.

Assembled by editor and essayist Cinelle Barnes, essays in A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South acknowledge that from the DMV to the college basketball court to doctors’ offices, there are no shortage of places of tension in the American South. Urgent, necessary, funny, and poignant, these essays from new and established voices confront the complexities of the South’s relationship with race, uncovering the particular difficulties and profound joys of being a Southerner in the 21st century.

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  • Hub City Press
  • Paperback
  • October 2020
  • 189 Pages
  • 9781938235719

Buy the Book

$16.95

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About Cinelle Barnes, Editor

Cinelle Barnes is the editor of A Measure of BelongingCinelle Barnes is a memoirist, essayist, and educator from Manila, Philippines, and is the author of Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir and Malaya: Essays on Freedom. She earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Converse College. Her writing has appeared in Buzzfeed Reader, Catapult, Literary Hub, Hyphen, Panorama: A Journal of Intelligent Travel, and South 85, among others. Her work has received fellowships and grants from VONA, Kundiman, the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund, and the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grant. Barnes is the 2018-19 writer-in-residence at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, SC, where she and her family live.

Praise

A Measure of Belonging challenges the idea of a monolithic Southern culture.” New York Times Book Review

A Measure of Belonging is a critical work…This book, with its cast of brilliant writers, explores the multi-faceted and often porous Southern identity in contemporary times. For many people of color, the South is home, happiness, and hurt.” —Kashif Andrew Graham, Chapter16

“The South on exhibit here does feel new: polyglot, multiracial, small-c catholic, urbanized, unwilling to accomodate or overlook the past but instead primed to confront it head-on, and keen to sift the South’s virtues—lovingly—from its flaws.” —Garden & Gun

“One of the things that makes this essay collection so powerful is its focus on the nuances of racism. We all know the KKK is racist, but what about that smiling white woman at the dinner party? In what ways does she undermine someone’s sense of belonging? What about microaggressions? That is the issue here.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Sharp and witty, this collection shows that there are many different ways to live, breathe, thrive and be a person who belongs in the South.” —Bookpage, starred review

“Cinelle Barnes has compiled the most diverse portrayal of the contemporary South I’ve read to date. These beautifully-written, clear-eyed essays present the American South through the eyes of its black and brown voices and expand the reader’s view of belonging to or hailing from the region. I love this collection and its depictions complicate the South in ways that mainstream America sometimes refuses to believe about our ugly/beautiful South. A Measure of Belonging is a major contribution to the canon of Southern literature and each of the writers give of themselves fully. It is a book for our times. Welcome to the 21st century!” —Crystal Wilkinson, author of The Birds of Opulence

“Totally engaging, this informing, thought-provoking collection is valuable for its vision of a South that is not monolithic.”—Publishers Weekly

“Across the collection, the writers push against the limits of what we think we know about the South.” —Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions

1. This fierce collection celebrates the incredible diversity in the contemporary South by featuring essays by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working in the region today, who all address a central question: Who is welcome? How have you seen this question asked and answered in your own life?

2. Have you had moments where you felt unwelcome in your place? How did you feel? What was your response?

3. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution: “In Barnes’ introduction to the collection, the Filipino immigrant who grew up in New York City, recalls a welcome dinner her husband’s new employer hosted after they moved to North Carolina for his job. When queried for her opinion about the South by one of the wives, Barnes expressed things she liked about the region but added there were things she’d like to change. The wife’s response — at a welcome dinner, mind you — was, ‘Honey, nobody asked you to move here.’” How would you respond to a confrontation like this?

4. Some of the writers in this collection are not from the South, but have moved here and adopted the region as their home. Have you adopted a place? Do you feel as at home there as your birth place?

5. Food and community guides several of the essays in this collection. Do you think food is connected to place? Do you have memories of food and community that tie you to where you live?

6. This collection grapples with racism in many forms, both systemic and interpersonal. How have you had to interact with racism in your life? Has it affected your relationship with place? Have you had to reconsider your place due to racism and its effects?