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Let's Play White

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  41 reviews
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, ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Apex Publications (first published April 23rd 2011)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  153 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Tori (InToriLex)
Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex

This short story collection rocked my socks off. Each story had enough real world and fantastical elements to help suspend your disbelief in a entertaining way. The African American experience in America can be horrific, it is a reality that belongs in some fictional horror story but fortunately is very real. Within very few pages, I became attached to characters and longed for the stories to continue. This author has an incredible talent to draw the
This was an extremely uneven collection of short stories. The best of them were absolutely stunning, heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. The worst were clunky, unsubtle, and lost their power (for me at least) as a result. All of the stories had some sort of fantastic element; unfortunately, the fantastic element seemed more likely to weaken the story than strengthen it. Still, good and bad, it's a collection very much concerned with power dynamics within families, between men and women, ...more
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
"Somehow, someplace, I'm coming for you."

Let's Play White is a collection of 11 stories from Chesya Burke. This was my introduction to Chesya's writing, and I enjoyed it! The stories were hit or miss for me, but I liked the collection as a whole. There's a good variety of stories in this collection, and I was entertained while reading.

My top 4 stories were Walter and the Three-Legged King, Purse, Chocolate Park, and What She Saw When They Flew Away. These were all intriguing, and I think my
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it
There were a few bangers in here, but I found myself getting fatigued by the stories that weren't landing for me. This is something that happens to me a lot when reading short story collections, which is why I typically avoid them (as I prefer novella/novels.) The mechanics of the writing in here was okay, but not nearly as strong as the ideas that Burke was presenting, which spanned many topics, social commentaries, and tones. I can see this really resonating with people, and I think Chesya ...more
Tracy Robinson
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Review is up today on

“Old Sam was dying. He had been dying for approximately twenty-seven years, by Queenie’s account” (“I Make People Do Bad Things”, Chesya Burke)

One of my reading goals for 2019 was to continue to seek out diverse works from often underrepresented groups of people such as LGBT+ authors, people of color, women, and all possible intersections of the three. Last year, I joined the Ladies of Horror Fiction team, a group of readers and reviewers (who I have
Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Shirley Jackson and Richard Matheson
Meeting a book is a lot like meeting a person for the first time. The setting, the company we find ourselves in (the book included), and the general ambiance all have an impact. The honest truth of the matter is that if I - a middle-class white guy in my late twenties - had not had the pleasure of meeting Chesya Burke at Readercon this past year, I probably would have skipped over her collection Let's Play White . I would have judged it solely on the title, and Jordan Casteel's excellent cover, ...more
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very painful, very powerful reading.

A lot of it about the post-Civil War black experience, and a lot of it about the current day black experience.

There were some that drove me to tears.

A collection of horror/dark fantasy/historical fiction stories about the experiences of black, poor and/or female people in the United States - a sadly-uncommon viewpoint in the genre. Thematically, Burke's stories tend to revolve around awakenings of various sorts, and the fact that her protagonists tend to end their stories on an upward trajectory is, again, an unusual one in the genre - there's a lot of breaking free from false consciousness here (what the kids call getting "woke"). The ...more
Charlotte (charandbooks)
The Teachings and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason was best story. Other than that I did like a lot of the ideas behind the stories but most of them were to short and open-ended for me. Really like the writing style of Chesya Burke though. Overall 3.5/5 stars.
M Griffin
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I imagine some readers might have avoided Chesya Burke's collection due to the title, convinced that the stories were not merely concerned with the black experience, but intended specifically for a black readership. To avoid Let's Play White for that reason would be a mistake, though, for any reader interested in a unique take on the horror and fantasy genres.

The stories in this collection take place in a variety of settings, both in terms of time and place. Some are contemporary and urban,
I liked Burke's style and her characters' voices, and how she tackles the weird and horror. In the midst of all the stories "The Unremembered" hit me in the face with the worst disability trope, in this case (view spoiler). The rest of the collection was solid, with "Purse", "CUE: Change" and "The Teachings ...more
Sep 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I was really excited to read this collection but in the end the abrupt ending of most of the stories just left me feeling unsatisfied with the effort. The one exception was the zombie story "CUE: Change" which I really enjoyed.
Alicia J
Oct 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easily deserves a 6th or 7th star. Without a doubt some of the best short fiction I've read in a very long time.
Jesse Bullington
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I dug it. Full review at Innsmouth Free Press:
Morgan Dhu
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
In "Let's Play White," a collection of dark fantasy and horror short fiction, Chesya Burke "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.[1]" The stories explore not only issues of race, but also of power, need, loss, and all the other darker elements of human existence to create fiction that is more than simply macabre. These stories grab the reader and demand that she ...more
Jul 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-2016
Chesya Burke's collection of short stories imbues the lives and experiences of African Americans, past and present, with genre elements like ghosts, demons, and zombies. The combination works well in some stories, but others fell flat for me.

I was most impressed by “CUE: Change,” a zombie narrative that plays with expectations and is probably the most original and well-developed piece in the collection. I also enjoyed Burke's detailed depictions of urban life in “Walter and the Three-Legged King
Lon Prater
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
My second Women in Horror Month read. (Only managed 2 this year, but what a great 2!) This book does something I have rarely seen accomplished well in fiction: It makes injustice and the sense of being socially trapped in a sick system the root of an awful, claustrophobic, paralyzing fear--without going very far at all from the real world. (That said, the speculative elements are well-chosen and anything but run of the mill.) The stories in this collection are filled with sharp bites that leave ...more
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to get into this one. I read the first couple stories and they seemed alright, but didn't quite click with me. I persisted. And then I hit one of my worst periods mental health-wise in months, and suddenly I 'got' it. Burke's stories bring to life all your deepest anxieties, fears, terrors. She takes the violence people suffer through in our society every day - things like poverty, joblessness, racism, sexual violence - and she gives it an embodiment outside the mind and flesh ...more
Michele Lee
Let's Play White by Chesya Burke is an excellent collection of nameless myths, darkness and hope. Burke tugs readers through shadowy places where hope still tries to linger, even if the people have given up. She also takes us to places where light is strong and vibrant, but people can't accept it. A wonderful collection, highly recommended, my favorites are the urban voodoo-themed ″Chocolate Park″ and the powerful rural fantasy novella ″The Teachings and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason″.

I did
Nicholas Kaufmann
Mar 13, 2013 rated it liked it
What I like best about these eleven stories, which range in tone from the fantastic to the horrific, is that Burke writes about people and situations I rarely get to read about in speculative fiction. Not just the African-American experience, though that's different enough in itself from what you find in run of the mill speculative fiction, but characters who are down and out, who are at the end of their ropes, who are blamed for things they didn't do and know damn well why. Burke has a strong ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it
A short story collection, mostly but not all speculative. Some very raw and rough stories - lots of emotion, some more speculative than others. I particularly liked the novella that ends the collection, and found her zombie story a refreshingly new take.

This author is still in college, I think, by her bio - so I imagine she will achieve astonishing heights if she's already writing stuff this powerful!
Tyrannosaurus regina
Elsewhere, someone described this collection to me as "raw" and that seems like exactly the right word. The characters and the situations are unvarnished and honest and it's not always comfortable, nor is it meant to be. "CUE: Change" is unlike any zombie story I've ever read before, in a world where there is a veritable flood of zombie stories, and "The Teachings and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason" is really the one story above any other that's going to stick with me.
Betsy Phillips
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was great, but man, you need to schedule about twenty minutes between stories just for time to decompress. They're short stories, but they're really rich, and I couldn't go just straight from one into the next.

I also thought they were exceptionally scary, but more scary like THE ORPHANAGE than scary like THE SHINING.
Melissa Andrews
Eh. It's not often that my rating differs a lot from a Goodreads average rating but that's happened this time. I really mean to give 2.5 stars but I always round up cause we don't have that option. These stories just didn't do it for me. There were a couple that I really liked but overall the book didn't impress me.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't say enough good things about this collection by Chesya Burke. All of the stories are gut-punching and memorable, unique, original, and gripping to read, especially the piece "The Teachings and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason." Just amazing. This book deserves a much wider readership and far wider recognition for its excellence.
Liz Neering
Jun 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Burke has a distinctive voice, often very poetic. Her characters are strong, diverse, and fully formed. Women and people of color are always at the fore, shown navigating mundane and fantastic situations in largely (though not always) white-controlled spaces. It's a poignant set of stories, and I highly recommend it.
Janet Harriett
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
The stories are individually very powerful, but the transitions between the. is sometimes a little jarring. It's a collection not to be missed, even if it's not one that begs to be read in one sitting to absorb the full emotional arc of the anthology.
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant collection. "“The Teachings and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason" was my favourite.
Lydia Schoch
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Content Warning: racism, pregnancy, childbirth, deaths (including the death of a child), rape, domestic violence, and miscarriage. This will otherwise be a spoiler-free review, and I will not be going into detail about any of these topics here.

As much as I’d love to write a full-length review of all eleven stories in this anthology, doing so would have inflated this post to five or six thousand words at minimum because each one was set in its own unique universe. What I decide to do instead was
Abby Suzanne
Nov 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Let's Play White, by Chesya Burke, was a good collection of short stories. Not the best I've ever read, not the worst. To be fair, my copy was sticky from something (I am pretty sure it's because I removed one of the stickers), so that very likely colored my reading. I dislike sticky books, as I'm sure many of you do, too. I also felt like the stories were kind of disjointed but also not. Some of them went together, some felt out of left field. I know story collections don't all need to go ...more
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