8 Questions with Cinelle Barnes

Cinelle Barnes is the author of Monsoon Mansion and Malaya: Essays on Freedom. https://www.cinellebarnes.com


Which talent would you most like to have?

I was actually telling my daughter yesterday about a Filipino TV show I watched as a child. The protagonist had the ability to absorb knowledge and wisdom from the things he touched. I'd like to be able to touch books and art, and learn from them with little effort. I don't have the time to read all the books I want to read nowadays, so the ability to absorb information in this way would be my talent, or should I say "superpower," of choice.


What is your most treasured possession?

I can't boil it down to a single possession but something I recently salvaged from my daughter's trash bin was a stuffed animal she said she had outgrown. I rescued it and stashed it in my scarf drawer, a reminder of sweet, sleepless struggles.


What is your idea of perfect happiness?



What is your motto?

Again, I can't narrow it down to one... but something I referred to recently was a quote from The Art of Time in Memoir. Sven Birkert said, "...and there are those who were pushed to language by the richness of their early lives." I think this is something I live by, whether I'm conscious or not, in my daily work and in how I see the world.


How would you like to die?

Having been true to the people I love, including myself. And, to that end, having been thankful.


If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

A cup of tea that both soothes the troubled and invigorates the sleepy... or a work of art, preferably sculpture, that does the same.


What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

It depends on who we are talking about. I prefer particularity. I guess you can say that I find generalizations to be overrated.


What is your current state of mind?

It is always a tug between "I need to do more and check off an action item" and "I should rest and lean into my thoughts." This is life for a mother, a writer, an activist, and an immigrant. I find myself giving in to the latter more often nowadays. Must be an effect of the pandemic, or getting older.