So, We Cast A Shadow is … a book. It was not one I enjoyed reading but that does not mean it was a bad book. I found the writing stilted and the characters a little flat, but my discomfort with the writing may have overly soured me on more than that.
The book takes place in an all-too-plausible American hellscape, like a Jeff Sessions wet dream. Black America is haunted by deliberate over-policing and every insidious aspect of institutional racism we see today is amplified to a horrifyingly logical extent. It’s today’s world with the volume turned up a notch or two.
Enter our unnamed narrator. He is a black man making his way the best he can in this world, largely by doing as he’s told and internalizing every bit of racism thrown his way to the point that he looks at his young son – mixed race and looking, in his eyes, blacker every day – and sees ways to “fix” him. It is very hard to read. He’s our narrator, we’re in his shoes, his is the internal dialogue we have but we also want to take him by the shoulders and suggest a really, really good therapist. So much of his behavior is dictated by his need to get his son top of the line “demelanization” surgery – to surgically make him 100% white – and his actions are driven by how to pay for it. He bows and scrapes at work, accepting whatever dehumanization they throw with a “Thank you” and a smile. His (white) wife doesn’t know. His son doesn’t want it. But he can’t see past it.
I don’t know how to properly talk about this book so I hope I’ve, if not done justice, at least not overstepped.