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Publisher's Summary

"An incisive and necessary" (Roxane Gay) 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

"Stunning and audacious...at once a pitch-black comedy, a chilling horror story and an endlessly perceptive novel about the possible future of race in America." (NPR)

Longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the PEN/Open Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR and The Washington Post

"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.

©2019 Maurice Carlos Ruffin (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“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)

“Like Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and the film Get Out...a singular and unforgettable work of political art.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

“Brilliant and devastating.” (Booklist, starred review)

We Cast a Shadow is like a dispatch from the frontlines of the African-American psyche. Written with ruthless intelligence, it’s the story of a father’s love and how he tries to protect his son in a country that devours black lives through violence, incarceration, and poverty.... [Ruffin] can drive his story to the outer limits and beyond, and never lose the threads of bitter reality that make it so haunting. We Cast a Shadow soars on Ruffin’s unerring vision." (Renée Graham, The Boston Globe)

What listeners say about We Cast a Shadow

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  • Jade Hawk
  • 03-02-2019

Fantastic

A fantastic piece of speculative fiction of a reactionary America that is as disturbing as it is familiar. Quick paced and dynamic. Ruffin presents a nightmare whose roots lay at our feet every moment of every day. Bravo to the author and the narrator for their work.

7 people found this helpful

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  • shopaholic
  • 09-07-2019

READ IT!

I never write reviews, but it was necessary. I loved this book and the Narrator made it PERFECT! Its an amazing story about colorism which is how lighter skin is "better" than darker skin.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Penny Diggs
  • 25-02-2020

A rough ride worth the Journey

The main character was tough to like bit the story made it worthwhile. Narration was excellent and made the main character likable even if he couldnt always make him relatable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Barbara S
  • 21-09-2019

Amazing!

Graham is the perfect performer for Ruffin’s story. This is a fantastic story about racism that will leave an impression on your views of our world and where we could be going if unchecked. One of my favorite stories of 2019.

1 person found this helpful

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  • guerillaw
  • 22-08-2019

Brilliant work, poorly read.

I post this review only to warn potential listeners that this is not the narrator's best work. He lends an overly dramatic air to the book that wanders frequently into verbal histrionics not appropriate to the text. This includes exhalations and sighs not in the text that make it more of a performance than a reading which is detrimental to the source material.
As a vivid satire with detailed descriptions the melodrama simply does not fit and detracts from the enjoyment of the book; often rendering it as rhythmic, dramatic spoken-word.
The book itself is unassailably brilliant. If this is the only way you can consume it, please do so. It is worth the time as both thought provoking and enjoyable writing. It deserves its awards and plaudits.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Serena Mcpherson
  • 08-02-2021

“Futuristic” till you realize it’s not (in a good way)

First of all, I am a white woman in my 30’s and that’s important bc this book will hit dif groups very differently.
This book is supposedly set in the future and there are some elements of technology and the extreme situation of segregation that could be futuristic but you start to realize this book is a study tool in what micro-aggressions and white fear look like for the black community. I thought situations in the book were a little more extreme then most of every day America currently but I began to realize that black people and minorities all over the world currently experience the situations laid out here.
The point of this book is not to have a riveting plot that drives your page turning. The point, in my estimation, is to examine a man’s life through his own eyes, a man who is trying desperately to be something other than what he is. He experiences deep self-loathing but he doesn’t necessarily see it that way.
It is really uncomfortable to read how so many racist beliefs have sunk into this black man’s core but he is likable and earnest in his way. I valued this book as a peek to where white supremacy could take us. It’s pretty unsettling but I highly recommend it to help you examine pitfalls you may fall into and to recognize the seeds of lies in your own thinking if you are white.

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  • Kimberly Hudson Brown
  • 12-03-2020

Got lost.

It started out strong and interesting. Then is went all over the place and seemed just as lost as the main character.

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  • Nerd Much?
  • 15-01-2020

great narration

The narration is top-notch, but the story gets a bit like a fever dream towards the late middle to ending.

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  • Chris
  • 03-03-2019

hood book about race

good ending...the author does a giid job in character development and makes you understand rach person's side

2 people found this helpful

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  • valerie
  • 12-05-2019

Just OK

I must be missing the gene that enables you to read a book and think it is wonderful because I read this book and it is just OK. This is not the first time this has happened. I must be missing the good writing recognition gene,

2 people found this helpful

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