Intimate Conversation with Yayoi Lena Winfrey
Born in Tokyo to an African American father and Japanese mother, Yayoi Lena Winfrey grew up on three continents. A resident of California most of her adult life, she’s also lived in Alaska, Hawai’i, Washington State, and St. Thomas U.S.V.I.
After attending art school, Yayoi freelanced as an illustrator and graphic designer before turning to journalism for the past 13 years. In 1998, she began working in the film industry and made a feature film, Watermelon Sushi, based on her life as an AfroAsian woman. She was a finalist for FIND (Film Independent) Project Involve, Fall 2005-Spring 2006. Besides contributing to numerous publications, Yayoi was twice nominated for journalism awards, and is referenced on Wikipedia. In 2000, she published an anthology of 28 black women writers and a chapbook based on her film.
Today, Yayoi plans a reshoot of the film while writing a weekly blog, Watermelon Sushi World, featuring cross-cultural stories. She’s also created a Facebook group, Hip Hapa Homeez, which addresses multiethnic experiences, as well as a Facebook fan page for Watermelon Sushi. And, she's working on a collection of erotic short stories and a novella featuring multiracial characters and interracial relationships, as well as a novel about an AfroAsian family living in the Caribbean.
Brothers and Others is an anthology of 28 black women authors writing about black men. Because I was tired of seeing the same old stereotypical images of black men as drug dealers, gangsters, prisoners and rappers, I sent out a call worldwide requesting stories about black women's relationships with black men. Over 500 submissions were received including essays, poetry and short stories about black men in their roles as grandfathers, fathers, uncles, nephews, husbands, sons, friends, neighbors, celebrities, lovers, brothers and others. A magazine-style book, Brothers and Others contains pieces ranging from poetic tributes like a woman's poignant poem about her HIV-positive gay brother to a cute and classy short story about a man (from his POV) incredulous over his former big-breasted girlfriend having her bosom surgically reduced.
Book Review: Brothers and Others
5 Stars! Reviewed by Heather Covington
"Brothers and Others is a collection of essays, poetry and short stories written by Black women from around the globe about Black men in their roles as grandfathers, fathers, uncles, nephews, husbands, sons, friends, neighbors, celebrities, lovers, brothers and others." Shocking and down to earth poetry from woman poets who hold nothing back!
BPM: Yayoi, are your characters from the portrayal of real people?
A: The characters in Brothers and Others are both fictional and non. They range from a real-life HIV-positive gay man to a fictional character who is incredulous at learning his former big-breasted girlfriend had her bosom surgically reduced.
BPM: What inspired you to write this story?
A: The inspiration for me taking on this anthology as an editor and publisher was because I was tired of seeing the same old stereotypical images of black men as drug dealers, gangsters, prisoners and rappers. I sent out a call worldwide requesting stories about black women's relationships with black men. Over 500 submissions were received including essays, poetry and short stories about black men in their roles as grandfathers, fathers, uncles, nephews, husbands, sons, friends, neighbors, celebrities, lovers, brothers and others. The real challenge was selecting only 28 women's stories to publish. Another reason I wanted to publish this book was to get my father's story of growing up in Jim Crow Texas into print.
BPM: What is your most valuable lesson about the publishing industry?
A: I learned that the publishing industry, like the film industry and so many others, is simply not interested in stories about people of color unless they fit into some preconceived notion of what it means to be that based on the thoughts and ideas of people who are not of color. Unable to interest any publisher in this anthology about black men written by black women, I forged ahead and published it myself.
BPM: What writers inspire you and why?
A: Besides being an independent journalist, I also write fiction. Because I'm a huge fan of prose and interesting, complex characters, I'm heavily influenced by Caribbean women writers like Edwidge Danticat and Jamaica Kincaid. Of course, I also love Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston. And, I've been moved by black American novelists like Earl Shorris (Ofay) and John A. Williams (The Man Who Cried I Am). I also enjoy African authors like Nigeria's Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart). Because of my strong Japanese cultural roots, I'm also attracted to works by author Mishima Yukio as well as many Asian women writers. It's believed that the world's first psychological novel ever published was Tale of Genji which was written by Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th Century. I've seen an anime version of the story, and it rocks!
BPM: What did you hope to accomplish by writing this particular story?
A: I hope to bring a greater awareness of just what it means to be a black man in this world as interpreted by their biggest fans--black women.
BPM: How may our readers connect with you online?
A: Brothers and Others is currently available by contacting the publisher, Yayoi Lena Winfrey, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For more information, check out the Brothers and Others Fan page on Facebook where we support all independently published works by people of color. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brothers-And-Others/145195676524 As for me, I'm busy working on a collection of erotic short stories about multiracial people as well as a novel about an AfroAsian family in the Caribbean.
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Categories: Author Interviews