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Conversations with Tamika Burgess

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tamika Burgess.

Hi Tamika, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born to parents who migrated from Panamá, and I have always taken a particular interest in writing personal essays that explore my Black Latina identity. I have written detailed fiction stories from a young age that captivated readers, as indicated by winning my elementary school’s Young Writers Conference for three years straight. This planted a seed that never left me. Although pushed to the back burner for some years, writing a fiction book would remain a must for me.

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and a Master of Strategic Communication degree from National University, I pursued a career in advertising. After a six-year stint in the industry, I realized my passion for writing and delved head-first into it by making a career change and moving to NYC.

The hustler’s spirit of NYC reignited my desire to write a book. What started as a picture book quickly became the loosely-based story of my life, now known as SINCERELY SICILY.

During the ten years, it took to write and shape the book, I created and produced Es Mi Cultura. The monthly newsletter was in production for five years and highlighted Black Latinas who proudly acknowledge their African ancestry while staying true to their Latina culture. The newsletters still live online, where they remain a resource and a source of inspiration for young Black Latinas to access.

Because of my passion for spreading knowledge of Black Panamanians, I have been featured on various websites, podcasts, and panels, including Young Panamanians Around the Globe, Negrita’s Afro-Latina documentary, and Ain’t I Latina’s “Disrupting Stereotypes: Images of Latinas in Digital Media.”

I reside in sunny Southern California and I am currently working on my second novel with HarperCollins, scheduled for Winter 2024.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The biggest struggle along the way was seeking representation for my debut novel. Throughout the pitching process to agents, I received a lot of positive feedback about my writing, but the agents I reached out to didn’t know what to do with a story about a Black Panamanian. That is until I pitched Regina Brooks at Serendipity Literary Agency. She took a chance on me and my story. She helped me shape the story and get it into my editor’s hands at HarperCollins.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a debut author, and writing is what I do.

Prior to my book coming out, right now I am best known for my freelance personal essay writing. I am most proud of my debut novel, SINCERELY SICILY.

I believe my ability to write and speak candidly about my Black Panamanian culture and experiences growing up in a non-diverse area is what sets me apart from others.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was outgoing and outspoken. I always had something to say. That all changed in middle school when I started to feel self-conscious and was comparing myself to other girls. Growing up in a predominantly white community, I didn’t see myself represented, and sticking out from the rest was hard.

I enjoyed reading and watching TV. I didn’t enjoy writing at the time, but from an early age, I knew it was something that came easy to me.


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Image Credits
Photos by Claudia R. Balbuena

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