A “brilliant and devastating” (Booklist) debut for fans of Get Out and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, about a father’s obsessive quest to protect his son—even if it means turning him white
“An incisive and necessary work of satire.”—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist
“You can be beautiful, even more beautiful than before.” This is the seductive promise of Dr. Nzinga’s clinic, where anyone can get their lips thinned, their skin bleached, and their nose narrowed. A complete demelanization will liberate you from the confines of being born in a black body—if you can afford it.
In this near-future Southern city plagued by fenced-in ghettos and police violence, more and more residents are turning to this experimental medical procedure. Like any father, our narrator just wants the best for his son, Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is getting bigger by the day. The darker Nigel becomes, the more frightened his father feels. But how far will he go to protect his son? And will he destroy his family in the process?
This electrifying, hallucinatory novel is at once a keen satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. At its center is a father who just wants his son to thrive in a broken world. Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s work evokes the clear vision of Ralph Ellison, the dizzying menace of Franz Kafka, and the crackling prose of Vladimir Nabokov. We Cast a Shadow fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love.
Advance praise for We Cast a Shadow
“Like Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and the film Get Out . . . a singular and unforgettable work of political art.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Thrilling . . . We Cast a Shadow is haunted by the ghosts of Ralph Ellison and Victor LaValle. But Maurice Carlos Ruffin, as well as the terrifying racial landscape he renders, is a world unto himself.”—Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill
“A literary classic that will outlive us all, We Cast a Shadow is the finely crafted quake the American novel needed.”—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
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Set in the post-post-racial South, We Cast a Shadow tells the story of a man—one of the few black men at his law firm—desperate to pay for his biracial son to undergo demelanization, desperate to ‘fix’ what he sees as his son’s fatal flaw. It is this desperation that haunts this novel and, in this desperation, we see just how pernicious racism is, how irrevocably it can alter how a man sees the world, himself, and those he loves. It is a chilling, unforgettable cautionary tale, and one we should all read and heed.
Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist