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A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South

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A fierce collection of essays that tackle the question, "Who is welcome?" while also uplifting and celebrating the incredible diversity in the contemporary South, by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working there. Essays in A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South, examine issues of sex, gender, academia, family, immigrati A fierce collection of essays that tackle the question, "Who is welcome?" while also uplifting and celebrating the incredible diversity in the contemporary South, by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working there. Essays in A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South, examine issues of sex, gender, academia, family, immigration, health, social justice, sports, music, and more. 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. 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. With writing from Cinelle Barnes, Jaswinder Bolina, Regina Bradley, Jennifer Hope Choi, Tiana Clark, Christena Cleveland, Osayi Endolyn, M. Evelina Galang, Minda Honey, Gary Jackson, Toni Jensen, Aruni Kashyap, Latria Graham, Soniah Kamal, Frederick McKindra, Devi Laskar, Kiese Laymon, Nichole Perkins, Joy Priest, Ivelisse Rodriguez, and Natalia Sylvester.


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A fierce collection of essays that tackle the question, "Who is welcome?" while also uplifting and celebrating the incredible diversity in the contemporary South, by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working there. Essays in A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South, examine issues of sex, gender, academia, family, immigrati A fierce collection of essays that tackle the question, "Who is welcome?" while also uplifting and celebrating the incredible diversity in the contemporary South, by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working there. Essays in A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South, examine issues of sex, gender, academia, family, immigration, health, social justice, sports, music, and more. 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. 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. With writing from Cinelle Barnes, Jaswinder Bolina, Regina Bradley, Jennifer Hope Choi, Tiana Clark, Christena Cleveland, Osayi Endolyn, M. Evelina Galang, Minda Honey, Gary Jackson, Toni Jensen, Aruni Kashyap, Latria Graham, Soniah Kamal, Frederick McKindra, Devi Laskar, Kiese Laymon, Nichole Perkins, Joy Priest, Ivelisse Rodriguez, and Natalia Sylvester.

30 review for A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ursula

    4.5/5 This anthology blew me away. I expected it to be engaging, but it was actually one of the most powerful books I've read in years. The essays in this collection span the themes of food, music, sports, education, language, systemic power, and much more. My favorite essays include Latria Graham's "Nuisance: An Essay about Home," Christena Cleveland's "White Devil in Blue: Duke Basketball, Religion, and Modern Day Slavery in the 'New' South, Kiese Laymon's "That's Not Actually True," and Aruni 4.5/5 This anthology blew me away. I expected it to be engaging, but it was actually one of the most powerful books I've read in years. The essays in this collection span the themes of food, music, sports, education, language, systemic power, and much more. My favorite essays include Latria Graham's "Nuisance: An Essay about Home," Christena Cleveland's "White Devil in Blue: Duke Basketball, Religion, and Modern Day Slavery in the 'New' South, Kiese Laymon's "That's Not Actually True," and Aruni Kashyap's "Are You Muslim? and Other Questions White Landlords Ask Me." What would have made this anthology even stronger would have been the inclusion of more Native and Latinx voices. It's no longer valid to say there aren't many of those writers, or not many of those writers in the South. Those voices most certainly exist and they deserve amplification. Overall, I highly recommend this important anthology.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa S.

    A Measure of Belonging is an anthology of essays by writers of color living in the South. Each essay touches on a unique nuance of being a POC in the south and the many ways in which those who aren’t white are discriminated against and asked, “What are you really?” I enjoyed all of the essays and felt myself swept up in each one, resulting in this being a really quick read. I would have liked to see more representation from Latinx and Native voices, but I have no complaints otherwise. This is a b A Measure of Belonging is an anthology of essays by writers of color living in the South. Each essay touches on a unique nuance of being a POC in the south and the many ways in which those who aren’t white are discriminated against and asked, “What are you really?” I enjoyed all of the essays and felt myself swept up in each one, resulting in this being a really quick read. I would have liked to see more representation from Latinx and Native voices, but I have no complaints otherwise. This is a beautifully curated collection that I highly recommend!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    4.5 stars “That’s how I think of it now, this place- a we rather than an it. I’ve acclimated enough to feel a measure of belonging.” Quick Summary: This anthology is focused around the question, “who is welcome?” Each essay, written by a person of color, deals with the complexities of the South’s relationship with race, uncovering the profound difficulties and joys of being a southerner in the 21st century. Thank you Hub City Writers for sending me a copy of this magnificent book! I loved this book 4.5 stars “That’s how I think of it now, this place- a we rather than an it. I’ve acclimated enough to feel a measure of belonging.” Quick Summary: This anthology is focused around the question, “who is welcome?” Each essay, written by a person of color, deals with the complexities of the South’s relationship with race, uncovering the profound difficulties and joys of being a southerner in the 21st century. Thank you Hub City Writers for sending me a copy of this magnificent book! I loved this book! Like really loved it. I expected the essays to be engaging but each one really blew me away. The writers cover topics including music, food, the DMV, landlords, academia, and the fucking Duke Blue Devils (boooooooo). I was particularly crazy about the two essays written about Louisville, KY (my hometown) by Joy Priest and Minda Honey. Both women grew up in the area and Minda currently lives there. They wrote of what it’s like to grow up in a city that is a funny mix of the south and midwest. Priest wrote about the West End where thirty percent of residents don’t own a car. Her words about the Ninth Street Divide had my jaw on the ground, “Called such because it separates the West End economically, politically, visually, and psychically, the Ninth Street Divide is a common phrase uttered to tourists by downtown bartenders as a boundary not to venture beyond.” IYKYK. And it’s true. I lived in Louisville for over 20 years and didn’t start venturing to the West End until I started teaching at a school on 22nd St when I was 24 years old. And this was when my entire worldview blew up. I learned about how people outside of my bubble lived. I learned a new kind of understanding that people twice my age still seem to grapple with: systemic systems that keep people exactly where they are at. Once you learn these things, that is all you see. There is no unknowing what I now know. And thank god for that. But I digress. Read this book! Especially those of you living in Southern states or from that area. Each writer’s story was fascinating and hard to put down. I also recommend this for someone looking for a quick read- it’s just a little over 100 pages!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    “That’s how I think of it now, this place—a we rather than an it. I’ve acclimated far enough to feel a measure of belonging.” ~ I’m all about regional US nonfiction at the moment—whether it’s food writing or memoir or creative reflections, I’m here for it! I recently finished A MEASURE OF BELONGING: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS OF COLOR ON THE NEW AMERICAN SOUTH, edited by Cinelle Barnes (@hubcitywriters 10/6). This tiny but mighty anthology grappled with the central question of “who is welcome?” and explor “That’s how I think of it now, this place—a we rather than an it. I’ve acclimated far enough to feel a measure of belonging.” ~ I’m all about regional US nonfiction at the moment—whether it’s food writing or memoir or creative reflections, I’m here for it! I recently finished A MEASURE OF BELONGING: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS OF COLOR ON THE NEW AMERICAN SOUTH, edited by Cinelle Barnes (@hubcitywriters 10/6). This tiny but mighty anthology grappled with the central question of “who is welcome?” and explored the complexities of race in the American South. Each essay had such a unique angle, covering a range of geographic experiences in Southern states, family situations, professions and more. It’s a collection that celebrations the joy of life in the South, tempering this with experiences of difficulty and confrontation that persist in the region. For those that don’t live in the South, I often find there’s a tendency in writing about the region to fall into either a comfortable romanticized or demonized extreme, with little scope in the imaginary for the grey amid these polarized perceptions and stereotypes. I loved that this collection spoke so honestly to this infinitely complex experience between these extremes, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and people of color living and working in the region. When I posted about this book recently I shared an extract that had particularly struck me from Kiese Laymon’s essay, and today I wanted to share a quote from Toni Jensen’s essay (from which the title phrase “a measure of belonging” is sourced): “I know the South is not the only place capable of irony, capable of rough treatment, of racism and worse. I know I have spent so much time considering the safety of my students within my classroom walls, but I have not considered enough the limitations of this place, of this South, of this history, outside my classroom walls, outside my own defining of it.”.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lily Herman

    Cinelle Barnes and all of the writers included in A Measure of Belonging have created something incredible: A complex, wide-ranging, and mind-expanding anthology covering so many nuanced aspects of being a person of color in the South. Often anthologies can be hit or miss when it comes to their individual parts, but overall, this one was consistent and grounded, and I'm having trouble keeping track of all of the essays I liked because there were so many thought-provoking ones to choose from. Cinelle Barnes and all of the writers included in A Measure of Belonging have created something incredible: A complex, wide-ranging, and mind-expanding anthology covering so many nuanced aspects of being a person of color in the South. Often anthologies can be hit or miss when it comes to their individual parts, but overall, this one was consistent and grounded, and I'm having trouble keeping track of all of the essays I liked because there were so many thought-provoking ones to choose from.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    An incredibly timely book to finish today! What an absolutely phenomenal collection of essays. Truly no misses here--every essay was beautifully written, each engaging with fascinating subject matter and helping to paint a picture of the dichotomous South as a welcoming and unwelcoming place, a racist and antiracist place, and home and not home. I would highly recommend giving this a read and checking out work put out by Hub City Press in general!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nicole B

    I appreciated many of these stories, but the anthology format is evidently just not my cup of tea. Most essays were too short for me to truly engage.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sachi Argabright

    A MEASURE OF BELONGING is an anthology collection edited by Cinelle Barnes focused around the experiences of 21 writers of color living in the American South. This book features a wide range of voices, and discusses many different places in the South. [ Trigger warnings for discussion of miscarriage and stillborn fetuses ] Barnes’s intro to this collection is strong, and it continues to deliver with every essay thereafter. As one could guess, there are many passages about racism and whiteness bein A MEASURE OF BELONGING is an anthology collection edited by Cinelle Barnes focused around the experiences of 21 writers of color living in the American South. This book features a wide range of voices, and discusses many different places in the South. [ Trigger warnings for discussion of miscarriage and stillborn fetuses ] Barnes’s intro to this collection is strong, and it continues to deliver with every essay thereafter. As one could guess, there are many passages about racism and whiteness being everywhere, just in different forms. Microaggressions, insensitive assumptions, and intrusive questions are illustrated throughout the collection, and while they are not specific to the South, it is important to recognize they continue to occur all over this country. This book features 21 truly talented writers, and I will need to dig into their backlists for more of their work. The two essays that resonated with me most were Treacherous Joy by Tiana Clark and That’s Not Actually True by Kiese Laymon. I have so much love for this wonderful book! Great for anthology lovers, or those who want to read more books focused on viewpoints from the South that aren’t lifted as much in mainstream media.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma Ito

    i really loved the essays in the collection, particularly “suddenly, an island girl,” by m. evelina galang, in which she explores her identity as a midwestern pinay transplanted to miami. she relays some of her father’s experiences in north carolina, where he faced the jim crow binary of Black & white & was directed to use the “Colored” bathrooms at gas stations but the “whites only” doors to the hospital. this reflects a lot of the history i work to uncover, where asian americans were often stu i really loved the essays in the collection, particularly “suddenly, an island girl,” by m. evelina galang, in which she explores her identity as a midwestern pinay transplanted to miami. she relays some of her father’s experiences in north carolina, where he faced the jim crow binary of Black & white & was directed to use the “Colored” bathrooms at gas stations but the “whites only” doors to the hospital. this reflects a lot of the history i work to uncover, where asian americans were often stuck in between these rigid binaries. so many of these essays resonated with me & as a japanese american in richmond, virginia, who studies asian american & southern history, it made me even more bummed when i finished & realized there were no essays featuring virginia. don’t get me wrong, the essays featured in this are fantastic & i absolutely recommend this book. but, when i was growing up in rural new kent, virginia, i remember my cousin telling me va wasnt the “real south.” yall. virginia is absolutely the real south & the lack of a virginia essay was the only shortcoming to this otherwise excellent collection. def a good read for nonfiction november & i think a needed read for many folks who want to explore & learn more about the many nuances in the south. the south is an incredible place full of resistance & fights for civil rights, both historically & now 🔥

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anjie

    Every essay a gem in its own way. Written by a diverse slate of writers from across the new American south-- from Louisville to Miami to Austin to Charleston. Some of the accounts they share are universal, most deeply personal, some made my heart hurt. At times I nodded in recognition even though I only lived in the South a total of 3 years (1.5 in Atlanta, 1.5 in Richmond). I'm originally from Maryland which is, yes, south of the Mason-Dixon Line but I leaned into its Mid-Atlantic sensibilities Every essay a gem in its own way. Written by a diverse slate of writers from across the new American south-- from Louisville to Miami to Austin to Charleston. Some of the accounts they share are universal, most deeply personal, some made my heart hurt. At times I nodded in recognition even though I only lived in the South a total of 3 years (1.5 in Atlanta, 1.5 in Richmond). I'm originally from Maryland which is, yes, south of the Mason-Dixon Line but I leaned into its Mid-Atlantic sensibilities hard to I wouldn't feel Southern. "A Measure of Belonging" has broadened what I thought of as the Southern experience thanks to perspectives that don't often get a chance to shine, at least in the nonfiction space.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mackensie Colleen

    I don’t know if it’s a problem of essay collections or a benefit of essay collections, but I kept being mad that some of the essays were short because I just wanted to know more! Then i would hit one where I thought “oh good it’s short.” But this is a a great series for anyone who maybe has a very outdated view of the South- or worse, doesn’t recognize the racial issues in their own area outside the South.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Baylee Less

    I purchased this collection while browsing my local book store. I was searching for Southern voices, especially Southern voices of color, and I couldn’t have found a more perfect, insightful, witty, challenging, and epic selection to read. Each essay and story differs in details but share a common thread of love AND distrust of the new American South. All in all, bravo, well done, and I will likely read and reread this collection for my entire life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hasheemah Afaneh

    I won this in a giveaway and got it in the mail last week! I started reading it today & finished within a few hours. The essays were heart wrenching, for the most part, and well written. It made me contemplate my place in the South, and as much as I reside here, I don't think it would ever be home. Though, I am happy to be in the part of the South that I am. I won this in a giveaway and got it in the mail last week! I started reading it today & finished within a few hours. The essays were heart wrenching, for the most part, and well written. It made me contemplate my place in the South, and as much as I reside here, I don't think it would ever be home. Though, I am happy to be in the part of the South that I am.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Manisha

    powerful, beautiful writing that resonantes with me as A first gen American/south Asian from the south. Like other reviewers have mentioned, 4/5 because I feel like latinx and indigenous writers were sorely underrepresented. As a south Asian myself, I feel south Asian writers might also be a tad over-represented in this collection.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vern

    What an amazing collection! The diversity of authors and range of topics within this collection are arranged so well. I hated for each essay to end. "Face" by Soniah Kamal was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same. I can't pick a favorite because each essay was a delightful. I haven't enjoyed a collection this much in a long time. What an amazing collection! The diversity of authors and range of topics within this collection are arranged so well. I hated for each essay to end. "Face" by Soniah Kamal was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same. I can't pick a favorite because each essay was a delightful. I haven't enjoyed a collection this much in a long time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melyssa

    I enjoyed this collection of essays and was fintroduced to some writers who were new to me. It was a good look at different experiences in the South. This is one of my Nonfiction November books for 2020.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Short stories have never been a favorite of mine, but this having all different authors was new to me and I enjoyed it. Some were better than others (‘Face’ destroyed me) bit I found a handful of new authors to add to my to read list and a few more I wished had novels I could add.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susannah

    An excellent look at the strengths of the South as well as the weaknesses through the eyes of the descendants of the people who built the region. This anthology is the new must read for any readers of southern literature.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Doose

    Favorites: "My Sixty-Five-Year-Old Roommate" by Jennifer Hope Choi "That's Not Actually True" by Kiese Layman "Suddenly, an Island Girl" by M. Evelina Galang "Treacherous Joy: An Epistle to the South" by Tiana Clark "Outta the Souf" by Regina Bradley "Pass" by Toni Jensen Favorites: "My Sixty-Five-Year-Old Roommate" by Jennifer Hope Choi "That's Not Actually True" by Kiese Layman "Suddenly, an Island Girl" by M. Evelina Galang "Treacherous Joy: An Epistle to the South" by Tiana Clark "Outta the Souf" by Regina Bradley "Pass" by Toni Jensen

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    These essays were a perfect length, wonderfully curated, and told so many great stories about the South.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elise F

    4.5/5 Moving vignettes about life in the South. Important and nuanced descriptions of the complexity of the South and the variety of experiences here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    I liked this essay collection a lot. It's a quick, engaging read that creates a nuanced mosaic of the writers' personal experiences. I liked this essay collection a lot. It's a quick, engaging read that creates a nuanced mosaic of the writers' personal experiences.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Did not hold my interest. Quit reading halfway through.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rose Peterson

    This book helped me to redefine the South and the people who live there and write about it. I discovered many new authors whose work I look forward to exploring. I couldn't help but wonder if there had been prescriptive word limits for each essay that constrained their ideas, though. This book helped me to redefine the South and the people who live there and write about it. I discovered many new authors whose work I look forward to exploring. I couldn't help but wonder if there had been prescriptive word limits for each essay that constrained their ideas, though.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carla (literary.infatuation)

    Whatever threat or violence awaits this nation in the years ahead, none of it lurks there because we permit diversity and difference to enter here. It lurks because we permit disparity and indifference, because we seek not to correct desperation and injustice but to insulate ourselves from them.” - Jaswinder Bolina, A Measure of Belonging. I had high hopes for a collection of essays written by writers of colors with connections to the South edited by Cinelle Barnes, and featuring favorites such a Whatever threat or violence awaits this nation in the years ahead, none of it lurks there because we permit diversity and difference to enter here. It lurks because we permit disparity and indifference, because we seek not to correct desperation and injustice but to insulate ourselves from them.” - Jaswinder Bolina, A Measure of Belonging. I had high hopes for a collection of essays written by writers of colors with connections to the South edited by Cinelle Barnes, and featuring favorites such as Toni Jensen and Natalia Sylvester. It didn’t disappoint. I was hooked to every single one and felt the need to devour it in one sitting. As a Latina with an accent, I felt seen. As a Muslim, I felt seen. And as someone who has to hear “but where are you REALLY from ?” incessantly, I felt represented. I saw my pain and fears and complaints about being “othered” in theirs; but I also saw in them hopes that we can make a place for ourselves. That we can break the myth of the South as exclusively white and culturally homogeneous.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    I wish the stories had been longer - interesting, good writing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Isabella Cunningham

    I would recommend this to ANYONE. This collection softened all my feelings towards the South as writers of color who call southern states home hold these places with more gentleness and kindness than I thought possible. If you need to loosen that lump of bitterness in your stomach, pick this one up. Read it for your book club. Re-read and re-read. 15 stars!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Nagle

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bri

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Hanchon

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