Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “We Cast a Shadow” as Want to Read:
We Cast a Shadow
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

We Cast a Shadow

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  4,518 ratings  ·  809 reviews
A bold, provocative debut for fans of Get Out and Paul Beatty's The Sellout , about a father who will do anything to protect his son--even if it means turning him white.

How far would you go to protect your child?

Our narrator faces an impossible decision. Like any father, he just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black bir
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 29th 2019 by One World
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about We Cast a Shadow, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Maurice Ruffin PG-13. This book is taught in many colleges and universities. Some high school teachers have used the book in their lesson plans. There is implied sex…morePG-13. This book is taught in many colleges and universities. Some high school teachers have used the book in their lesson plans. There is implied sex that is not shown. Several curse words. At least one instance of violence that may be disturbing for those who are sensitive. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,518 ratings  ·  809 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of We Cast a Shadow
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s debut novel, We Cast A Shadow, is an incisive and necessary work of brilliant satire. 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 drives this novel, that haunts this novel and in this desperation, we see just how pernicious racism is, how irrevocably ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, adult-reads
3.75 thought-provoking stars for this racially charged work of satirical fiction!

Set in a satirical future south, We Cast a Shadow tells the racially fueled dystopian story of a black man desperate to pay for his biracial son's demelanization process. In this future world race is still an issue of injustice. The only way to truly level the playing field is for black Americans to undergo an expensive procedure which turns them white - on the cellular level.

Does that sound far fetched to you? Th
Lark Benobi
upping my review for the amazing We Cast A Shadow because it deserves more readers, and because Maurice Ruffin's new story collection, The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You will be out in five days and I'm going to be reading it--

original review:

I don't know if it's fair to compare anything at all to Invisible Man but I can't think of another novel that includes the same mix of high satire and terrifying truth as does this debut from Maurice Carlos Ruffin.

Ellison is clearly on Ruffin's mind here
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3+ stars

We Cast a Shadow is a dystopian satire — if there is such a genre. Intellectually, I thought it was brilliant. But I must admit that I didn’t love reading it. It was a question of genre and style rather than content. Set at some point in the future in the US, life for African Americans has become an exaggeration of what it is today. Levels of surveillance and incarceration are very high. There are fenced ghettos. Etc... The narrator identifies himself as one of the 10% lucky enough to av
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As I began to write this review, I asked myself: how do I write this review in such a way that I don’t offend white people?

And then the irony of that question hit me like a punch in the gut.

In We Cast a Shadow, our main character and most black Americans have spent their lives not only trying not to offend white people, but trying to amuse them, cater to them, and, yes, be them. You see in our near future tale, those with money enough can have a series of procedures to become white. Why do they
Maurice Ruffin
Feb 14, 2019 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
I like the cover.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read, usa
A black father loves his son very much, which is why he does everything to turn his kid white so he won't be subjected to racist oppression - this is pretty much the disturbing premise of this painful satire. Maurice Carlos Ruffin finds haunting words and images to illustrate the alienation and suffering that racism causes, how people are forced to choose between their pride and their safety, and how dignity and compassion get crushed in an inhumane, white supremacist society. What makes this te ...more
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Review Edit: 3/19/19:

Maybe this was the point given the narrator's use of drugs, but I felt like I needed to be on drugs while reading this. It's like that scene in the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes version of Romeo & Juliet, where Romeo takes ecstasy and everything is spinning? That's how the prose in this was for me. It was just all over the place and it couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Such a missed opportunity. I didn't get "the brilliance" and I really wanted to.

This is a story about
Release date January 29th!

We Cast a Shadow is a debut novel by Maurice Carlos Ruffin that takes place in the near future. Still plagued by racial discrimination blacks now have the option to achieve ultimate assimilation.

The story follows an unnamed African American male narrator who seems to have risen above his natal station in life. Working as a lawyer in a prestigious law firm he is willing to do anything to placate his superiors, even masquerade as typical stereotypes to advance his career
Jun 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Swift meets A Confederacy of Dunces meets [redacted as a spoiler]—this phrase popped into my mind as I neared the book’s end and I thought maybe that would be my whole review. But that might've make me sound glib and a work that deserves a reread doesn’t deserve that.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that after a tumultuous event comes some of the best writing, lyrical and affecting, probably my favorite section (along with the ending).

Completely coincidentally, I’d started reading
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the 2020 TOB.

Let’s cut to the chase, this is a book about a black father, whose name we are never given, who wants his son to be white. That sentence describes the narrative, but the book explores why he wants his son to be white. He believes that turning his son white will save him from the oppressive, dominant, racist white society.

The novel is set in the future, but just how far in the future we are never told. What we do know, and the author brings up repeatedly is that racis
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
in the new york times Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah does a great job of summarizing this book, so i refer you to his review for a sense of what this novel is about.

for me, reading this novel felt like having a hard meeting with despair. look, this is satirical, on a level, so some of it may be funny, but there is nothing funny in the world ruffin presents. somewhere in the south the american racism we all know and hate has scope-creeped into laws and regulations that restrict black life to an extent
A Necessary Read!

A brilliantly unsettling tale set in the not-so-distance future southern state, a Black father seeks to ensure that his biracial son lives his life to his fullest potential, which means not to be identified as a Black man.

A well-thought out plot skillfully executed as every action and character shines on the reality that society fully endorses oppression of Blacks through containment, violence, and poverty.

I was compulsively turning the pages as I felt the this near-future cree
Erin Glover
I confess. I laughed at racially insensitive jokes. I don’t know how Ruffin does it. He takes satire to a whole new level. The exaggeration of our southern culture’s insidious racial prejudice barely misses being over the top, staying well within the range of hilarious. Some of the dialogue is jaw-dropping, like when Jo Jo’s girlfriend holds out her hand to the unnamed protagonist’s half-black child and says, “Come with me my little chimpanzee.” How does Ruffin get away with that?

The protagonist
Jessica Woodbury
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought it would be a very long time before I could say of a new book, "If you enjoyed how uncomfortable THE SELLOUT made you feel, have I got a book for you!" But here we are, and WE CAST A SHADOW is that book.

This is a book that is going to pull at every single thing you know about race, especially about whiteness and blackness, and no matter who you are, it is going to make you squirm. Sometimes it's the sharp social satire, the novel is set in a near-future world where every little revelat
Kasa Cotugno
This is the latest novel to explain and deal with the issue of racism in America employing fantasy, magic realism, dystopian concepts, call it what you will. From Underground Railway, to White Tears, to Underground Airlines, to Sing Unburied Sing, among others, authors have eschewed reality because the subject matter is too painful to deal with and offer alternative worlds in which to address the subject. Mostly, as here, they are satirical, thusly carrying an undercurrent of rage, quite appropr ...more
“We Cast a Shadow” by Maurice Carlos Ruffin is a powerful novel exploring racism through a satirical format. Can racism even be satirical? Yes, in Ruffin’s expert prose.

An unnamed narrator is happily married, with a son he loves to bits, in a job with upward potential. This narrator is black, married to a white lady with a “trans-racial” son, in a law firm with few blacks. He and his wife send their sweet boy to “the school with no walls” because public school is atrocious for black children. Th
Tad Bartlett
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
(Spoiler-free, as much as possible)
Maurice Ruffin performs writer magic in We Cast a Shadow. As the book opens, the reader is settled comfortably into a clever and biting satirical world where race plays a sharpened role in the butcher's shop of office politics of an old-line law firm. The time could be now, and we don't get the sense that if it's not now that it's too far off in the future. The cultural referents and the social/political critiques come fast and furious, as you would expect in s
Brown Girl Reading
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
This debut novel explores racism in the United States through an unknown black man. He is one of very few blacks that works there. At the opening of the book he attends a costume work party at one of the partners' home in hopes of maybe impressing them to get a promotion. He wants the promotion so that he can finally afford to pay for a demelanization operation for his mixed race son Nigel. As we read in we discover the horrible ways minorities in particular black people are treated. His only de ...more
Kara Paes
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to One World and Random House for providing a free copy via Netgalley.
This beautifully written book is thought provoking and very timely given the society we are living in today. I thought it gave a scary insight into what we could become if we leave the racism in today's society unchecked. I really enjoyed that the story was told from the father's perspective. I loved seeing how far he was willing to go to protect his son even when it was questionable. My favorite part was the reunion
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 rounded down
Monica **can't read fast enough**
I really appreciated the themes of the story but I didn't love how it was told. I'm not going to go into detail about this one because I don't have particularly strong feelings one way or another for it. I will pick up another story written by Ruffin. It may simply be that I don't enjoy satire as a means of telling a story since I didn't enjoy The Sellout much either.

Where you can find me:
•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•
Twitter: @MonlatReader
Instagram: @readermonica
Facebook: Monica Reeds
I am a unicorn. I can read and write. I have all my teeth. I’ve read Plato, Woolf, Nikki Giovanni, and Friend. I’ve never been to jail. I’ve voted in every election since I was eighteen. I finished high school. I finished college. I finished law school. I pay taxes. I don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, or the itis. If you randomly abduct a hundred black men from the streets of the City and deposit us into a gas chamber, I will be the only one who fits this profile.

If you enjoyed Get Ou
3.5 stars. We Cast a Shadow is a sharp satire about race in America. It's set in a dismal, nearish future, when race relations have devolved from where they are today. It's set in an unnamed city in the south (though I think New Orleans based on the references to parishes), with an unnamed narrator, a black man who is desperate to afford a treatment that will make his biracial son white. While it starts out rather humorous in tone, the story soon becomes dark and devastating, and while the scena ...more
Shobhit Sharad
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's been a long time since I read a book in first-person, so We Cast A Shadow was an apt choice, because the writing was quite good. The only downside being that the narrator was a horrible person, but as the narrator he was able to justify his actions quite much, and that's what made the book interesting. You know he's not doing good, but you can just see the reasons he paints quite artfully for us, the readers, and probably himself.

Being slightly academic, let me say that I think there are th
ElleEmme Dub
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was so hard to get through. I found the writing clunky and the plot unremarkable. I was looking forward to a sophisticated, provocative and insightful take on racism in America but all I got from We Cast a Shadow was a mishmash of exaggerated tropes. However, if even one white person reads this book and realizes how their actions or inaction contribute, in big and small ways, to the dehumanization of people of colour all over the world then do your thing Maurice. This book may not have ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
Jul 13, 2020 added it
Shelves: audio
I first saw We Cast a Shadow on @thestackspod's list of 'Read Black Stories' and thought it sounded intriguing, so I was excited when I saw it on my library’s audiobook app.
It's set in a city in the American south, in the very-near-future, where many Black people have started undergoing the 'demelanization' process, which turns Black skin white. This is a satirical novel, something I'm not particularly well versed with, but it was in turn funny and horrifying, switching from humour to horror wi
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alison Hardtmann
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
A black lawyer, living in the city in a near future United States, has worked his entire life to assimilate properly, obeying every rule. Now he's up for a big promotion, one that will give him the financial resources to give his son the one thing that will save his life and allow him to succeed. He wants to buy his son a medical procedure that will make him white.

This is a hard book to characterize. It's certainly satire, and dystopian fiction. It's a book about racism that at first feels like
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book, i tried and tried and tried, but i literally could find no interest in it. The first chapter had me so hyped it was amAzing and then i struggled to regain footing after that. The concept is such an amazing eye opening idea and i loved the synopsis, the writing just didn’t do anything for me, and it slowed down immensely and became sporadic. I sadly skimmed the middle 100 pages bc i was that bored, maybe I’ll be able to go back and try this book again but for now it ju ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Tournament of Books: We Cast a Shadow 28 141 Feb 26, 2020 10:54AM  
Play Book Tag: We Cast A Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin / 4 stars 1 9 Feb 09, 2020 08:04AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
  • The Last White Man
  • Overthrow
  • Whereas
  • Shiloh
  • Witch Creek Road
  • Lorena Immaculate
  • Optic Nerve
  • Lakewood
  • The Science of Living: 219 reasons to rethink your daily routine
  • Buses Are a Comin': Memoir of a Freedom Rider
  • Sürgün (Adak, #1)
  • Long Past Summer
  • Imperfect Birds
  • White Elephant
  • Bütün İyiler Öldü
  • Recursion
  • The Tenth Muse
See similar books…
See top shelves…

Articles featuring this book

This year is proving to be an amazing time to discover debut authors. Across genres, readers have found and championed work by...
66 likes · 17 comments
“Yes, the Founders had meant that all men were created equal, but they failed to include an index of defined terms. Ever since they drafted that screed, no one wanted to admit that Washington, Jefferson, and the rest of those guys meant only to protect the rights of white, landowning men. Through sloppy copyediting, our illustrious forefathers set off the human rights skirmishes that would beset the nation all the way to the present. If any of the seventy-plus delegates at the Constitutional Convention could have bothered to bring along a gray-wigged man of letters or even a lowly print shop owner, the document would have been clearer, so generations of people wouldn’t have spent their lives dreaming of rights they were never meant to have, wrongheadedly attending protests, getting beaten or killed.” 3 likes
“felt guilty, of course, but for the love of Meadowlark Lemon, did the world really need another child of the diaspora with highly developed ball skills? The answer was in the question, and I made all indirect efforts to discourage his growing love of sports. America could cheer someone else’s brown boy down a field and, after he’d wrecked body and mind, into an early grave.” 1 likes
More quotes…