Several of her articles appeared in the African American National Biography published by Harvard and Oxford University Press and she won the 2004 Twilight Tales award for short fiction. Her short story collection, Let’s Play White, debuted a few weeks ago and was published by APEX Books.
Chesya attends Agnes Scott College where she studies Creative Writing and the African Diaspora as it relates to race, class and gender and many of these themes appear in her fiction.
Visit Chesya at http://www.chesyaburke.com/ or on her blog http://chesyaburke.livejournal.com/ where she tends to discuss these issues, and genre fiction as well.
I had the pleasure of interviewing my good friend Chesya for my blog, which is below, and the giveaway for her short story collection, LET'S PLAY WHITE, will follow thereafter.
1.) The title of your novel is quite fascinating. What convinced you to choose such a title and why?
Let's Play White is a short story collection, although it does contain a almost 30,000 word novella. The title was influenced by Richard Wright's 1940 novel, Native Son. The novel follows a black man living in poverty and unable to make a better life for himself and his family because he's black.
At one point the main character and a friend play a game titled "Let's Play White" where they imagine what life would be like if only they could be white. The novel is about oppression and what happens when people are placed in boxes and not allowed to get out. Although it's 2011, many of the same problems still exist for minorities. I decided to highlight some of these issues of class, race and gender in my collection, while adding an element of the speculative.
2.) What is your favorite genre to read and/or write in? And why?
I read pretty much any genre. I don't like to limit my reading because I enjoy using elements from both genre and so called more literary works within my fiction. I know many people say it, and it's not
different for me; my work is hard to classify. I've been told I don't write horror often enough, and I don't really write classic (urban) fantasy or science fiction. I think my work could be called magic realism, but even that's subjective.
3.) When did you first begin your writing journey?
I first began writing when I was about 12 years old. I first began the "writing journey," as in trying to write for publication, about ten years ago.
4.)Who are your major influences?
Octavia Butler, hands down. I absolutely loved the way her work encompassed many different ideas, usually simultaneously. Her work touched on ideas of femininity, politics, spirituality, sensuality and culture, while exploring what it means to be a woman of color through the supernatural. I'm also fans of Robert McCammon, Ralph Ellison, Tananarive Due, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley, Samuel R. Delaney, Nikki Giovanni, and many many many more.
5.) What are your favorite novels?
It's hard to make a concise list. Don't make me. I will say that anyone who hasn't already should read Octavia Butler. Sooner rather than later.
Thanks for having me.
I'd like to thank Chesya for stopping by and participating. And also for giving away a copy of her awesome collection. And now for the giveaway:
Below is the synopsis for Let's Play White, taken from the Apex Book Company's website, where you can also pre-order Chesya's book: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/2011/03/lets-play-white-by-chesya-burke-available-for-pre-order/.
White brings with it dreams of respect, of wealth, of simply being treated as a human being. It’s the one thing Walter will never be. But what if he could play white, the way so many others seem to do? Would it bring him privilege or simply deny the pain? The title story in this collection asks those questions, and then moves on to challenge notions of race, privilege, personal choice, and even life and death with equal vigor.
From the spectrum spanning despair and hope in “What She Saw When They Flew Away” to the stark weave of personal struggles in “Chocolate Park,” Let’s Play White speaks with the voices of the overlooked and unheard. “I Make People Do Bad Things” shines a metaphysical light on Harlem’s most notorious historical madame, and then, with a deft twist into melancholic humor, “Cue: Change” brings a zombie-esque apocalypse, possibly for the betterment of all mankind.
Gritty and sublime, the stories of Let’s Play White feature real people facing the worlds they’re given, bringing out the best and the worst of what it means to be human. If you’re ready to slip into someone else’s skin for a while, then it’s time to come play white.
Chesya received excellent reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Laird Barron. And Chesya also received a stunning blurb from Nikki Giovanni, Grammy nominated spoken word artist and poet. To find out more about Chesya, visit her website or her blog.
Giveaway: For a chance to win a signed copy of LET'S PLAY WHITE by Chesya Burke, all you have to do to enter is leave a comment. Also, please list your e-mail address as follows: your e-mail (AT) wherever (DOT) com, so you won't get junk mail. The contest is open to everyone in the U.S. only please. The contest will end on June 13, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Good luck. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on June 14, 2011. Good luck.