Monday, November 16, 2009

Shakespeare Ashes by Chris DeBrie Tackles America's Toughest Issues

Today's guest blogger is Chris DeBrie, author of Shakespeare Ashes: A Novel.

Donna wonders how she can forgive and forget.

Charlene doesn’t quite know what she wants.

Robbie is usually thinking about which honey he plans to bag.

And Erven just does his best to obliterate the world…

Their lives and histories interconnecting, these characters navigate that uncertain time between classrooms and the wide-open world.

I posed the following question to Chris: What is one question about your book that you wish interviewers would ask you?

Here is what he had to say:

Shakespeare Ashes deals with some of America's toughest issues--race, gender, age, and sex. You mention President Obama's inauguration in the first chapter. Is his presidency a benchmark for black people? Is America still racist?

This is too complex to answer in the time we have, but I would say"yes and no" to both questions. Racism is relative to the person. If you want, you can find a flaw in any comment, any person. I feel it's better to keep it moving, instead of allowing your life to be controlled by people who don't care for you based on how God created you to look.

There was a period of a year or two, as a young adult, when I was frustrated that no matter where I traveled on Earth, there was a percentage of people who were instantly afraid, disgusted, or offended by my very existence. But I quickly realized that everyone who's born on this insane and beautiful planet faces pain. And when people try to say "my pain is greater than yours", that misses an opportunity to connect with others.

As for President Obama, I feel we're too quick to put things on the shelf and call it over. One event, one person, is not a finish line. There are thousands of benchmarks; life is a continuum, not a single goal. There's a continuing adjustment to the idea that a black man is in the White House, which you already know because people can't stop talking about it, if sometimes in veiled terms.

One day we'll get past the point of giving a handful of people the mantle 'black leader'. That's the spot Obama is in right now--he's a so-called black leader in a lot of short-sighted minds, if not in reality, no matter if he wants to be. No matter if those he suppposedly represents want that.

Whatever happens during his presidency, black people will be viewed through that prism. On smaller scales, the same goes for a number of celebrities. Just picking out of the air: Omarosa, Al Sharpton, OJ Simpson, Snoop Dogg, Willie Horton.... I could go on but that would get boring. Things they do somehow spills on anyone who resembles them in a superficial way. Yet you can point out any less-than-admirable person from David Duke, Levi Johnston, Ted Bundy, Charles Stuart, all the way down to a Stalin, and they are not made to represent all white people. What I am saying is not news, if you're a reasonable person.

As a writer I touch these wounds, but as a person walking around, I have a larger view. There are just too many exceptions to the stereotypes and assumptions in our minds. And I love using characters and situations to poke at the reader.

Chris DeBrie was born in North Carolina, creating comics and stories as soon as he could hold a pencil. He wrote the millennial love story As Is as a ninth grader, publishing it a decade later. Selective Focus was the result of those homemade comic screenplays. With Shakespeare Ashes, he pulls the reader into the raw thoughts of four very different characters. DeBrie is a fan of photography, learning languages, and clean water. He lives in Virginia.


Chris DeBrie has written a highly-entertaining, fast-paced book for readers. We follow the lives of four individuals through trials and tribulations of finding the right love; addressing gender issues and the all-encompassing racial issues.

The book is somewhat like letters and conversations exchanged between friends. With the elaborate descriptions of the characters readers will feel they know each one individually. The language is completely today’s language that you would hear anyone speak. In his writing he starts each sentence with small letters instead of the usual capital letters, which I found intriguing. I might even compare this to a journal one would write.

Readers will find themselves rooting for each of the characters and disliking other minor characters in the book. From the very first page readers will be captivated by the writing style and language. This book is everything we experience in our daily lives, right down to the elderly lady with an open umbrella and cane trying to maneuver getting on public transportation.

The author has written two other books, neither of which I have had the pleasure of reading. If they are anything like “Shakespeare Ashes”- they are a must read for all.

To see where Chris stops next on his virtual book tour, please visit

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