Book Review: A Measure of Belonging

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. That we can reclaim the South for us: Black, Indigenous and Latinxs, who’ve here long before this was the land of sweet tea and BBQ. Hope that one day we don’t have to justify our existence in the South, that we just are… a rainbow of colors, beliefs, cultures and cuisines; and no one remembers what a confederate flag looks like. I have a dream, don’t we all?

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