Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family’s rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.
Cinelle Barnes was barely three years old when her family moved into Mansion Royale, a stately ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. Filled with her mother’s opulent social aspirations and the gloriously excessive evidence of her father’s self-made success, it was a girl’s storybook playland. But when a monsoon hits, her father leaves, and her mother’s terrible lover takes the reins, Cinelle’s fantastical childhood turns toward tyranny she could never have imagined. Formerly a home worthy of magazines and lavish parties, Mansion Royale becomes a dangerous shell of the splendid palace it had once been.
In this remarkable ode to survival, Cinelle creates something magical out of her truth—underscored by her complicated relationship with her mother. Through a tangle of tragedy and betrayal emerges a revelatory journey of perseverance and strength, of grit and beauty, and of coming to terms with the price of family—and what it takes to grow up.
Read Cinelle's Literary City Guide to Charleston on Literary Hub.
South 85 Journal asked me to write about memoir and mental/stress disorders. Since the essay's publication, educators, therapists, and memoirists have shared it on Facebook, Twitter, and through their industry networks. The effect of this essay reminded me that I am not merely called to success or greatness, but to point people to HOPE. Read "Why I Write Memoir" here.
Great News! I've been selected as one of twelve writers for Kundiman's Inaugural Creative Non-Fiction Intensive. Through the help of some friends and a Kickstarter campaign, I will be attending this intensive on April 9 & 10. Thank you to everyone who's supported me thus far!