Malaya

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

Raw real honest an intimate look at the authors life her childhood her life as an undocumented woman in America her marriage.She shares her difficult relationships with her parents on to her marriage adjusting to living with her husband down South her life there and as a parent.A book full of so many difficult times the author is amazing I loved getting to know her story.#netgalley#littleA
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Until very recently, “multicultural” literature out of the South has referred almost exclusively to novels depicting relations between African Americans (often the descendants of slaves), and Americans of European descent. Although Asian immigrants have lived in the South since before the Civil War, albeit in small numbers, few Asian American characters appear in literature out of this region. Previously, when Asians or Asian Americans did appear in Southern fiction, they were often portrayed as the inscrutable “other.” Even fewer Asian Americans from the South have put pen to paper themselves, although this is changing. In Malaya, for example, Cinelle Barnes writes about being a Filipina in the American South, a Brown woman in a region that doesn't quite know what to do with its nonbinary residents (in spite of having elected Nikki Haley, the first Indian-American woman governor). Barnes writes with honesty and nuance of her time as a victim of childhood trauma, an undocumented immigrant, and the wife of a White man with KKK ancestors.
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Wowowow. THIS BOOK IS SO AMAZING I'm having trouble articulating my thoughts! If you loved MONSOON MANSION, you'll love MALAYA: ESSAYS ON FREEDOM as well. It truly is the perfect follow up to Cinelle Barnes' debut. I think context helped to make this book an even more enjoyable read because I was already invested in Barnes' story. Her time as an undocumented immigrant was by no means easy, but I was so glad for her to be away from her destructive life in the Philippines that each essay had a sort of hopeful quality to it.
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It's definitely not necessary to read MONSOON MANSION before reading this book; on its own, MALAYA is a thoughtful reflection on being undocumented, an immigrant, a person of colour. The essays were varied and diverse - her precarious work situations, her relationship with her husband's family in the American South, her daughter, her parents, the process of writing a book! Cinelle Barnes approached all of these topics in a beautifully poetic and descriptive way.
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Thank you to @netgalley for this ebook! MALAYA comes out in October but the hype better get started now because this book is really really good. Raise your hand if you're looking forward to reading MALAYA! 🙋
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After reading Monsoon Mansion, I was left with wanting more. Here, I got that more. Oh, my dear author, how I want to commend you on your courage and tenacity in life. You are an amazing and strong individual. 

This book shows the courage of every day life and the struggles of life as an immigrant. But also life with PTSD and what it means to be struggling with mental illnesses and such as an immigrant   

I highly recommend this book.
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***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.***

When I read Cinelle Barnes’ memoir Monsoon Mansion earlier this year, I knew she was a special writer. When I found out about Malaya: Essays on Freedom, I knew I had to get a copy and I can say Barnes did not disappoint with her second book. Malaya is a collection of essays in which Barnes relates her experiences and lessons learned as she has made her way as an immigrant in the US, to getting married and becoming a citizen and having a child and writing her first book. The reader will be moved by the crushing disappointments and amazing victories that Barnes has had in her life. But while this can be seen as a sequel to Monsoon Mansion, it is so much more. Barnes speaks directly to the reader asking them to consider what believes they may have and how they can be better to those society tends to want to ignore or vilify like immigrants and those with mental health issues. But she serves as an inspirational figure, someone who while they may still struggle with the traumas of the past can find strength in the everyday successes that they have. In my opinion, this is the best book that I have read so far this year. I would encourage everyone to read this book, and if you get a chance also read her first book Monsoon Mansion.

Rating: 5 stars. Would highly recommend to a friend.
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I want to start by saying that I really feel if I had read the authors first book, Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir I would have given this one four stars instead of three. This is a standalone book but there are many references to the first memoir. This is a collection of essays but they read as a continuous story. I really enjoyed the bluntness and honesty of the author. I also enjoyed the mentioning of family members who had read her writings, as I often wonder when reading memoir what the authors family thinks about their intimate moments being shared with the world. I would recommend this, especially if you are a the white half of a interracial relationship. The view from the other side is important. I want to thank #netgalley and the publisher for the free copy for review.
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Reflecting her journey from her childhood in the Philippines to her arrival in the U.S. Cinelle Barnes collection of essays surprised me. This is my first Barnes read and I am so happy I read this one first. Through vivid and insightful writing Barnes takes you through her challenges of being an undocumented immigrant, her biracial relationship and being a parent.  Her story is truly something. Many thanks to Net Galley and Little A for gifting me this copy. This was a 3/5 for me.
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I am so glad Cinelle Barnes wrote this book. It is current, relevant and timely in its subjects of immigration, illegal status, loss of culture and marriage. But more than that, it is full of small, explosive ways that immigrants fear and suffer in ways that residents do not. Her every day life, and the tragic technicalities that forced her into living as an illegal alien in New York, show how complicated immigration is. There are no black and white circumstances for immigrants. They suffer indignities, trauma and fear. And compassion should be the first thing we show them, as Barnes so beautifully shows in this fabulous book.
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This set of essays by Cinelle Barnes reflects her journey from her childhood in the Philippines to her arrival in the U.S. and the subsequent challenges she faced navigating life as an undocumented teenager and adult. Life was difficult as she struggled to find work, make a living, and survive. Her story is emotional, painfully so, and the ghosts of her experiences I expect will never leave her and won’t set her free. It’s difficult to articulate, but at times I felt she almost drowned in herself and through her therapy was able to come out on the other side - thankfully. Having read Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World immediately before this book, I was struck by the different approach each woman takes to  handling issues of race. Not taking anything away from this author's lived experience, I was not wowed but the writing style - its basic and sometimes mundane language was a surprise. To enjoy a book means to savor the texture of language through which a riveting and absorbing story is told and, unfortunately, this did not happen here - I had hoped for so much more. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Having loved Cinelle Barnes’s first book, Monsoon Mansion, I may have had too high of expectations with this one. Some sections and chapters flowed effortlessly and some felt halting. Broken up. Some of the sections just get really forced or haphazard to me. I get that a lot of this may be due to it being nonfiction like Monsoon mansion but about Cinelle’s time here in America. If someone enjoyed Monsoon, they should read this to learn more about the author however it doesn’t feel as cohesive as her other work.
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The author has a good story and she knows it. While her writing is clear and engaging, I kept feeling like I was missing important details. I preferred her earlier work which I thought held together in a more substantial way. I found myself wishing that it was in essay or short story form rather than a whole book.
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I really enjoyed reading these essays. Cinelle Barnes is a writer who reaches into her gut to pick apart her harrowing life experiences and to show how it affected her adult outlook, her relationship to her parents, and her interactions with a country that considered her legally undocumented for several of her formative years. This is a must-read for anyone interested in true-life immigrant stories.
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Cinelle Barnes crafts a beautiful collection of essays on personal and national freedom in this stunning collection. A Filipina immigrant who was adopted by an American family as an early teen, Barnes has an interesting and unconventional history - for more on that, see her debut memoir Monsoon Mansion. These essays capture many notions of freedom in all the ways we can be free and unfree. She discusses the precarious and under-the-radar life of living undocumented in this country; the jobs she worked as a house cleaner, a clothes washer, and a nanny with her family and other Filipina immigrants, who she felt put their hopes of an American dream on her shoulders. She speaks of how dance and its deep, physical, emotional, tribal feeling freed her body. Barnes has a gorgeous writing style and blends elements of psychology and sociology in her essays, adding another level of the study of what it means to be free. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Little A for providing my review copy. Also, can we appreciate that beautiful cover??
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Important, profound, and of interest to every reader.  Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to read it!
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In her first book, Monsoon Mansions, Cinelle Barnes wrote of her childhood in Manila, and how her family and her life fell apart after her father left and her mother remarried. Her second book, of essays on freedom, takes us into a world that is all around us, the world and life of undocumented immigrants. “No citizen, left wing or right wing, really knows the nothingness, the nonbeing, undocumented young adults constantly live with and anticipate.”
Barnes came to the United States as a young teenager to live with and be adopted by her widowed aunt. After adoption, she would become a citizen. She was an A student at her arts high school, a star player on the soccer team. But there was a glitch in the legal proceedings: her adoption was not finalized until shortly after she turned seventeen. That delay changed everything for her; her entitlement to US residency and citizenship disappeared after age sixteen. Suddenly Barnes was an undocumented immigrant, and fell into that underworld of people who survive by any means necessary.
Barnes had many family members in the US, and she left her aunt’s home to move in with her sister, to a two-bedroom apartment that was home to thirteen new immigrants. The sudden switch was too much for Barnes. “[M]y spirit or gumption or essence departed from my body.” She became virtually paralyzed, hiding in her bed, unable to function. 
“My sister, who was already like a mother to me, intuitively acted as my physical therapist. Ever wary of talking about mental health, as most Filipinos her age were and still are, she committed herself to my functional recuperation.”
Her sister insisted that Barnes join her in her work. “She forced me to move my body. She said that I should clean houses with her and our brother, convinced that if I could hold a brush and get into the rhythm of scrubbing in an up-down-up-down motion, I could get better. I scrubbed grout on my first day.” She moved on to washing windows with a circular motion, then vacuuming, moving rhythmically, making patterns in the carpet. 
We know that exercise heals our spirits as it strengthens our bodies. The hard labor and repetitive movements had neurological as well as more general physical effects. With her strength and renewed energy, she and her siblings took on more jobs, and their small business prospered.
Barnes remained undocumented, finishing high school, graduating from college at 23, all the while working long hours to support herself, as a house cleaner, a nanny, a laundry attendant, a supervisor in a coffee shop staffed mostly by undocumented workers. She and a friend started a sewing business, designing and making custom wedding accessories and selling them on the internet, but the business became so successful they could not keep up with it, and as undocumented workers they had no access to financing to expand the operation. 
Marriage to her long-time boyfriend, an American citizen, put her back on the path to naturalization. Even the happiness of the wedding with friends in Central Park was clouded by the marriage license clerk who had interrogated her, suspecting the marriage was a fraudulent green card scheme.
Barnes vividly pictures her experiences. As a nanny, she was a confidante to the children’s mothers, who told her all about their lives while knowing little of hers. She enjoyed the unbalanced friendships, where she was welcomed into privileged worlds of museums and theater. At the same time, she felt kinship with the other Filipina domestic workers she encountered. “I wanted them to hold on to the idea that a young Filipina could maybe, maybe, one day write about the Filipino immigrant experience—that maybe, maybe, one day, someone would write about them and acknowledge their sacrifices.” 
In the laundromat she was under time pressure to wash many loads of sometimes disgustingly soiled clothing while restricted to the few machines not reserved for the self-serve customers. 
She found something like a home in a Greenwich Village café, where most of the young workers were undocumented, from all over the world, and the sympathetic owner quickly put her in a management position when he recognized her skills. But they were all traumatized when the immigration authorities raided the café and arrested one of the cooks.
As a teacher and writer, Barnes has studied trauma and the mental health of immigrants. She  brings us thoughtful understanding of the psychological effects of her experiences. Malaya is a vivid, insightful picture of life in the shadows of our immigration system, as well as a portrait of an exceptional woman who overcame many obstacles to achieve the life she wanted. It is particularly compelling reading now, as chaos and cruelty rule our borders.
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Hot on the heels of Cinelle Barnes' well-received memoir, Monsoon Mansion, Barnes has released Malaya, an essay collection on the pursuits of freedom. Barnes shares creative essays about those that have oppressed her, those that she has enabled, and stepped on. If you haven't read Barnes' memoir, Malaya shares enough of the pieces of Barnes' life story that you can follow along.

Some of my favourite essays concern Barnes navigating interracial relationships, whether romantic or platonic and dealing with family trauma. "Careful White Girls, Careful Brown Girls" is simply one of the best essays in the collection, detailing a friendship Barnes seeks out with a surfer mom who she seems to idealize for her freedom and spirit, only to find herself disillusioned and angry at "white women everywhere who could fluidly slip in and out of spaces, toy with danger, even give danger a name, call it a gig, a job, a lifestyle." Danger is not something that Barnes never dared to flirt with, as an undocumented immigrant. "Genealogy" is a multi-faceted look into Southern families, a conflicting portrayal of silence and suffocation. "Cafe Culture" and "To Care, To Care Too Much" tell tales of modern employment - maids, hostesses, Etsy entrepreneurs - with the minefields of working with people with their own life stories. And of course, there are essays about writing essays. These were enjoyable if simply to hear about a craftswoman talk passionately about her trade. 

Malaya reminded me of why I read, to learn about lives different from us and to remember we don't know what people are going through. Malaya is a thought-provoking and fast-paced read.
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