The Shadow Craft: Riffing off of Kevin Young’s “On the Blackness of Blackness”

From Kevin Young’s The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness

The Shadow Book: One

Lately I have been thinking about the idea of a shadow book–a book that we don’t have, but know of, a book that may haunt the very book we have in our very hands. I have even begun to think that there are three kinds of shadow books in the tradition, and hope to provide a brief taxonomy of them. Like to hear it, here it go—

First there are the kind of shadow books that fail to be written: the Africana Encyclopedia by Du Bois the second novels of Jean Toomer or Ralph Ellison that never appeared, at least in recognizable form…As readers eager for such shadow books, we search among the fragments of a life unlived…(11)

Started reading Kevin Young’s Gray Album (Gray Wolf Press, 2012), and all I can say is “what took me so long?!” What should be required reading for anyone who studies history, politics, art, culture, music–anyone who enjoys reading, period– has me thinking of all the shadows we writers and artists of color were born into, continue to live in not necessarily by choice, but have made these shadows our own, the shadows we desperately try to push out to the open.

The mind is spinning with shadows we seek, shadows we’ve prodded, shadows we claimed as spaces to play and produce, shadows such as:

shadow pedagogy
shadow curriculum
shadow reading lists
shadow craft
shadow theory
shadow panels
shadow colloquiums
shadow seminars
shadow readings
shadow communities
shadow networks
shadow social media
shadow transactions via IM, email, FB, tweets, etc.
the shadow canon.

In my dream shadow craft course, I would teach this shadow work-in-progress reading list:

Diane Glancy, Inbetween Places
Kevin Young, The Gray Album
Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Edwidge Danticat, Create Dangerously
Gish Jen, Tiger Writing
Trinh T. Minha, Elsewhere Within Here
Anis Shivani, Against the Workshop
….

I would assign this shadow supplementary reading list, also a work-in-progress:

One of the shadow assignments would be to research a writer or artist and how s/he practices social action. Students would investigate: What does social action mean for that writer/artist? How does s/he define community, identity, and craft through social action? How does community, identity, and craft define social action for your chosen writer/artist?

Just some shadow dreaming as I continue the shadow craft of writing.

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