I am often wary of memoirs by people my age (early thirties or younger). Not because younger people have nothing to teach others, on the contrary, but because there is never enough distance, never enough inherent wisdom for us to put things into perspective and make the narrative void of petty grievances and psychoanalysis. But Cinelle Barnes, even though she is a little over 30, is an incredibly sharp woman, and it is obvious that she had gone miles and years after the experiences detailed in the memoir. I do not know what exactly happened that made her so sage, but not for a minute did I feel like being taken hostage by her story, and I think this is a great testament to her accomplishment as a non-fiction author.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of a little girl left to her own devices in a formerly luxurious mansion, the postapocalyptic image of the tiger economies on the brink, of neocon reign, of burst bubbles. Honestly, this was just as fascinating as a story of a former child-soldier in Darfur or Khmer rouge Cambodia. But Barnes’s story also benefitted hugely from lack of overhype of the situation. Despite all themes at the front (or subtext) of the narrative being very current—Gulf wars, oil, Filipino migrant workers, post-colonial Catholic reality and ripples in the country’s fabric, and Duterte’s current rule;—they are not exactly in vogue. So Barnes got to control what she wanted to make the story about, and she made all the right decisions.
Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes
Published by Little A in 2018