We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
This is my first book review in 10 months you guys! I took a bit of a hiatus from reading and instead went on a glorious road trip across America and enjoyed my life for a bit, but before I left for my trip, I read this book but never got a chance to post the review. Terrible, I know. My review may not be as detailed as I would normally like it to be because I read We Cast a Shadow in June of 2019, 10 months ago. Long time, I know, but alas! Here is my long overdue review of this beautifully covered book.
We Cast a Shadow is set in a dystopian near future world based in the south in America where discrimination, segregation, and race are still very much an issue. So much so that they have separated the black race into very poor and underdeveloped gated communities. The levels of surveillance on these communities and of the black race are very high, so much so that the police use heart rate and infrared machines that determine if a black person is a ‘high risk’ individual and therefore ends up being incarcerated for minimal reasons. We follow the narrator (unnamed) who is one of 10% of the black race that are actually doing well in society and avoid the inevitable fate of black men in this dystopian life. He works for a prestigious law firm as one of the few black people in the firm, and his main goal in his life is to prevent his bi-racial son, Nigel from falling into the cracks with the rest of the black race in his town. The only way for the Nigel's father to achieve his goal is by putting Nigel through a new and extremely painful experimental procedure that promises to save lives by turning black people white - on a cellular level, this also means that his offspring would be white as well. Clients can also undergo a lip thinning and rhinoplasty procedure to appear more ‘white’, obviously only if they can afford it. For Nigel’s father to be able to afford this insanely expensive and invasive procedure, he must make partner at his law firm and jump through a series of many hoops to achieve his goal.
I’ve gotta say, when I read the blurb of what the book was about I was pretty much hooked in. I honestly could never in my mind imagine a world where I, a black person, would ever want to under-go such an invasive and life altering procedure so I had to read this book for myself and understand why someone would go through such lengths to achieve this bizarre goal. In my mind, the Narrator was quite troubled. The fact that this was the only solution to help his son was mind blowing. Yes, I understood that the world they were living in was racially backwards and a segregated world, but his obsession with making his son become white was borderline unhealthy. The lack of pride and self love for his own skin and his race was very sad for me to read about, he very much battled with his own race in his world to a point where he was embarrassed to be black. He would go to such lengths to try and help his son go through his procedure that it would threaten his marriage with his wife, who was white and his relationship with his son Nigel. The narrator has his own issues that he deals with throughout the book. The pressure he has at work to constantly impress his white peers and make partner, his father who fell in the system and is now incarcerated in the fenced segregated community, he also has a drug addiction which he’s very unstable and dependent on. He is mentally unstable and on top of that he constantly worries for Nigel and his ever growing dark birthmark which will seal his fate if he doesn’t get him this new surgical procedure before it’s too late.
This book was an interesting read, I felt feelings of anger, sympathy and mostly sadness for NIgel’s father in this book. I quite liked the beginning of the story and somehow I lost touch a bit with the middle of the book, but towards the end it grasped my attention again. I had a love/hate relationship with the message of this book. Yes it’s infuriating to read about a man who wants to completely change his DNA, his history, his own self in order to ‘fit in’ and not be a threat to the existing white race, but at what cost? Where is the self love? What’s funny is that Nigel in a way was much wiser than his old man and he understood perfectly who he was and where he belonged, where his father, the narrator seemed to be at a complete loss.
We Cast a Shadow was an interesting read. Not one of my favorites, but definitely one to read out of interest and it was written extremely well. I think if it had more of a human touch to the story then I would have loved it a bit more. All in all it was a good read and I very much adored the book cover! I gave this book a 7/10. Good read but particularly a memorable one.
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Race, Contemporary, Satire
Published: January 29th, 2019
Reviewed by Chrissy's Books