Brooklynite’s debut novel explores 1920s Mississippi
Though he is a Brooklyn resident and New York native, Bill Cheng has recently published his debut novel, “Southern Cross the Dog,” which presents a chillingly evocative depiction of the South in the 1920s and 30s. Inspired by his love of the blues, Cheng follows the story of Robert Lee Chatham, a young black man who survives the Great Flood of 1927 in Mississippi. Robert and his childhood friends, whose paths diverge as a result of the flood, endure much hardship in the wake of the Jim Crow era.
From witnessing the horrifying lynching of his brother to being held captive by fur trappers, Robert believes he was cursed by the Devil as an infant. When he finds a glimpse of salvation in the unlikeliest of characters, Robert struggles to reconcile his past and future.
To celebrate the release of his novel, Cheng will appear at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene on Tuesday, May 14. Brooklyn Eagle recently spoke to the author, who told us why he chose to set his novel in 1920s Mississippi and shared with us some of the challenges he faced in writing about a character so unlike himself.
As a native New Yorker living in Brooklyn, what prompted you to write a story set in the South?