A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South, edited by Filipino-American author Cinelle Barnes, showcases some of the brightest and most poignant work of southern writers of color. Published by Hub City Press located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, this anthology features authors from various backgrounds and ethnicities who, in the joyful spirit of Southern America, explain the idea of a “new” south, an ever-evolving triumph against traditional stereotypes and racial discrimination.
Barnes, anthology editor and author of memoir Monsoon Mansion and Malaya: Essays on Freedom states, “I decided that every one of my projects . . . would be an invitation for other people of color to come, to be visible, and to thrive here [The American South].” Her anthology certainly does just that, and she’s not afraid to let traditionally taboo subjects rise to the surface, bleed through the page, and strike the heart of the reader—independent of race or class.
For example, Soniah Kamal in “Face” explores her personal grief and the collective spirit of women of color as they experience the horrors of miscarriage and the social stigmas attached to the female body. In a similar vein, Devi S. Laskar’s “Duos” dives into the idea of living a dual life between dominant white culture and the culture of the home. She writes, in stunning prose, “Often, I smiled. I learned later that is what primates do when threatened: grin.”
A Measure of Belonging is a stark reminder that, behind the draping magnolias and weeping willows, the south has a loaded history, the effects of which still ripple through today’s society. Cinelle Barnes’ anthology is but one call to awareness, a call to artful rebellion.
A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South Edited by Cinelle Barnes. Hub City Press, October 2020.
Erin H. Davis is an MFA (fiction) graduate student at the College of Charleston. She was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina.