The City Magazine Since 1975

After the Flood

After the Flood
June 2018

Cinelle Barnes’s new memoir, Monsoon Mansion

A hand-drawn map of a house in the Philippines, stacks of index cards scrawled with stories, and an intense need to finally swim through a difficult past: these were among the starting points for Cinelle Barnes’s new memoir, Monsoon Mansion (Little A, May 2018).

In 2011, the writer arrived in Charleston, her New York City life in fashion and journalism cut short by the recession, plus a baby on the way.

“Postpartum hit me really hard, combined with PTSD,” says Barnes. Her professor husband thought writing would help, so he bought her the index cards—right-sized for the arm of her rocking chair. While nursing her daughter, Barnes filled them with memories: of the mansion where she spent her earliest years, of her family losing their fortune, and of a disastrous monsoon. A new stepfather brought cockfighting—and worse—into the house that crumbled as a preteen Barnes fought to save herself.

The cards ultimately led Barnes to a master of fine arts in creative writing program at Converse College. By the end, she’d penned more than half of Monsoon Mansion—and scored a book deal.

Lyrically written, the engrossing memoir reads like a novel, conveying heartache, but also lessons in strength. Meet the author at Itinerant Literate’s Get Lit Supper + Book Club on June 19. 

Find Cinelle Barnes at


Photographs by (book) Natalie Moreau & (Barnes) Joshua Drake