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.
- “The label of “dark fantasy and horror” fits this collection both ironically and genuinely. Haunted by history and past wrongs, Burke’s characters are never alone, never safe, never comfortable. She weaves African and African-American historical legend and standard horror themes into stories that range from gritty subway gore fests to a sympathetic take on zombies. The magnificent closing novella, “The Teachings and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason,” follows a “hoodoo woman” as she nurtures and protects twin girls with similar powers and shows them what they are meant to do. If the urban realism doesn’t always seem quite realistic, the depth of Burke’s characters, the weight of their decisions, and their choices make this the very opposite of escapist fantasy. (July, 2011)” Publishers Weekly
- “”Let’s Play White” is a brutally honest book and the fact that the unthinkable happens, like a talking rat, a few zombies or communication with the dead, the underlying truthfulness is so powerful that it supersedes any implausible element. Although race is an essential backdrop to the stories, this is not a book about white racism against blacks. Instead, Burke touches on a variety of prejudices to let the reader know that color is not the only way in which we discriminate. Although some might cringe at the idea of reading a book about unfairness, racism and the dark tendencies of human nature, Burke’s impeachable openness and undeniable writing skills make “Let’s Play White” a very enjoyable read that fans of all literature should enjoy.”
Austin Post, Gabino Iglesias
- “Human is many different things all at once. “Let’s Play White” is a collection of short stories from Chesya Burke as she discusses issues of race and the problems we face regardless of it, and what links us all together in our plight of life. Thoughtful and thought provoking, “Let’s Play White” is a fine choice that is a worthy addition to any literary short fiction collection, highly recommended.” Midwest Book Review
- “Chesya Burke’s writing style is just mesmerizing – there is an undeniable lyricism there but also a tangible darkness and pain. Readers who enjoy their fantasy decidedly dark and deep should check out this profoundly moving collection asap.” Paul Goat Allen, B&N Books Club
- “These raw, brutal stories, often with intriguingly open endings, display an odd and unsettling relationships to the poetry of violence. These dark tales announce the arrival of a formidable new master of the macabre.”
—Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren and Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders
- “What a stunning collection. Let’s Play White… and so on time. [Chesya Burke has] touched something special in [her] stories. I’m a big Octavia Butler fan and I see a peek of that as well as some latter-day Toni Morrison [within these pages]. I see the light and warmth [Chesya is] offering. There definitely is magic in that. The short story, next to poetry, is the most difficult writing form. [Chesya has] tamed it and made it yield to [her] touch.”
—Nikki Giovanni, Grammy-nominated spoken word artist and poet
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