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Question about Shadow
So, on another web site I started a thread to discuss our cast choices for the movie (if they ever made one) and an interesting topic has come up. A couple users on that site claim that Shadow is black, and my friends and I completely disagree. From what I can recall the only word used to describe Shadow was "big." I seem to possibly recall someone in the book callin ghim dark; but in reference to his demeanor, not his skin tone.

I know that Gaiman intentionally didn't go into great detail on Shadow's appearance -- because that was the point.

So my question to all of you is this - is Shadow black? Because I'm pretty sure his mother was white, and... well, Wednesday is. So, help?!
Posts: 1 | Registered: May 24, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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his skin is described a few times as being "coffee coloured" which tells me hes either white and just tanned or is very distantly black or latino or even olive skinned (like italian maybe)

Hes not fully black because in the first chapter a prison guard asks him if he has "n*ger blood in him" which tells me hes obviously not black because the answer would be obvious. and sam asks him if he has native indian blood in him or something. So i dont think hes actually black just tanned skinned.

I know it's crooked...But its the only game in town
Posts: 24 | Location: england, uk | Registered: July 15, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
aka Fiona Banks
Picture of River
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It's been a while since I read the book, but I think that you're right, shadow is just tanned.

Wining means winning over the discord in yourself. Those who have a warped mind, a mind of discord, have been defeated from the beginning
~Morihei Ueshiba
Posts: 428 | Registered: September 17, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of semiramis
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I think Shadow's mom was likely black or part-black, actually--in the early scene with the prison guard, the exact exchange runs as follows:

"And what are you? A s---? A gypsy?"

"Not that I know of, sir. Maybe."

"Maybe you got n----- blood in you. You got n----- blood in you, Shadow?"

"Could be, sir." Shadow stood tall and looked straight ahead, and concentrated on not allowing himself to be riled by this man.

Shadow gives as strong a denial as he feels he can honestly give when asked if he's Hispanic or Roma, given that, at this point, he has no idea who his father is; but when asked if he's black, he gives a completely noncommital answer trending to the positive, even though he's presumably trying to avoid giving this jackass any more fodder. Shadow's skintone is specifically described as "cream-and-coffee" (Most notably to me in the scene where he's looking at his teenaged self by his mother's deathbed, although possibly elsewhere as well), a phrase which is only used to describe other characters once that I recall, in reference to Wututu's half-white children, from the interlude about the African twins who get sold to slavers by their uncle.

If Shadow is part black, it puts Laura's mother's sharp disapproval of him into an unfortunately realistic perspective. Also: his mother had sickle-cell anemia--a genetic condition that is far, far more common among African Americans than among the general American population. Not necessarily completely conclusive, of course, but I think fairly significant, given everything else.

(The only physical description we really get of Shadow's mother at all, actually, are: "There was a lemonish-gray tinge to her skin" in the flashback during Shadow's death, and, in the epilogue, "Many of the women he passed were very beautiful: slender and pale. The kind of women that Wednesday had liked. Shadow wondered what could have attracted Wednesday to Shadow's mother, who had been beautiful, but had been neither of those things." Neither of which descriptions, to me, positively indicate much about her race, except that she doesn't exactly fit mainstream Western beauty standards.)

I rather doubt Shadow identifies as black, mind--the way Neil handles race in American Gods is sharply contrasted by how he does it in Anansi Boys, where the perspective character is one who actually does identify as black, and where the narrative carefully points out every time that a major character isn't black. AG's narrative tends to point out when characters are black, although not always--for example, we hear nothing of any of the Egyptians' races until Ibis explicitly brings it up himself. (The Egyptians don't identify as black or, indeed, Egyptian either, but in today's race politics, that's how they'd likely be perceived by most, and that's how they seem to operate among humans.) It's possible that Shadow identifies as mixed, or, given how entirely nonelaborative he is everytime anyone asks about his race, also possible that he chooses not to identify as anything at all.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: semiramis,
Posts: 4 | Registered: October 30, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of worldvieux
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I read that his mother suffered from sickle cell anemia. While not a definitive indicator, since as a foreign traveler she may have encountered malaria, odds are she was black.
Posts: 4 | Registered: November 06, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of 999Kage999
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At first I thought that Shadow was black, but i swear somewhere later in the book it said that he had sandy hair which would indicate at least some European decent.
Posts: 6 | Registered: December 15, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I really don't think his mother was black, but she might have been dark skinned. In the postscript chapter, when Shadow gets to Reykjavík he notices that all the women their were slender and pale. He notes that his mother was neither of these things, so we definetely know that she is not pale, and therefore probably not of Northern roots like Wednesday because most of the people of Northern roots are pale, or at least, white.

He is asked at some point in the book if he's got nigger blood in him or if he's a gipsy, as somebody noted above, so that could indicate that his mother was somewhat dark skinned, but I think that she couldn't have been black, why wouldn't Shadow have just answered with a yes? Shadow doesn't seem like the kind of guy who's going to deny his mother's race, but he says that he has not got nigger blood in him. Why lie about it, if she is black ?

I think his mother was dark skinned to a point and he inherited that from her. I think when the word dark is used in relation to his appearance, it doesn't refer to his skin tone, but to the way he carries himself or the way he appears to people.

I'm from Iceland, and there are loads of people here who look like they could be gypsies, they look kind of olive skinned or just really tanned with dark hair and dark eyes, but it's extremely rare that people have african american blood in them here... so I see Shadow kind of like that...

hope every one can understand my english Smile
Posts: 2 | Registered: July 23, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Mr. Sandman
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shadow is in fact white, only tanned. if that makes any sense to you.

Always here,
Yet I always disappear

Mr. Sandman
Posts: 6 | Location: Las Vegas, NV, USA | Registered: September 30, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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"then you see that if you just tip the picture on its side that shadow is an Indian ..."

That line (page 403 of the Tenth Anniversary Edition) jumped out at me. I don't think the word choice there was an accident or coincidence. I'm sure that there are those who won't agree, but I think its a piece of text that should be included with the others when framing the debate about Shadow's heritage.
Posts: 2 | Registered: July 16, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I second everything
says here. I thought it heavily implied that Shadow's mother is at least partially black.

The dead giveaway to me was the sickle-cell disease, which according to the CDC affects 1 in 500 black or African-American people in the U.S., and 1 in 36,000 Hispanics. (Link here: Not that she couldn't have been something else besides African or African-American -- it would just be very unlikely in the United States. And why wouldn't he simply say "yes" to a prison guard who asked him if he had "n****r blood" in him? Goodness, would you?

And a half black/half white person doesn't necessarily favor the black side of their heritage. A woman I grew up with is pale, blonde, and married to a black man. One (and not the other!) of their daughters is also blonde with light enough skin that nobody would guess her father is black.

So, in conclusion, Shadow is most likely partially black, and almost certainly not entirely of European descent.
Posts: 1 | Registered: September 20, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Let's break this down here folks ...

Shadow is Wednesday's son (the passage about not wanting to witness his own conception).

Shadow's mother suffered from sickle cell before being diagnosed with lymphoma. Shadow is described as having coffee-and-cream skin (the passage about reading Gravity's Rainbow while his mother's in the hospital).

Shadow is most likely half black.

Expecting authors to be absolutely explicit in describing their characters' racial make-up is laziness in critical reading skills.
Posts: 4 | Registered: January 04, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Miguel The Magnificent
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Hi People. I'm new here.
Shadow is a demi-God and his skin is ...Brown.
It's not even the most important physical feature that he is discrebed as.
I always imagined him as tall( aprox 1.72 to 1,83m), scary and kind of dumb. The ability to read Gravitys Rainbow is pretty astonishing though. He must be very strong and with some pleasure in fighting. Clearly he knows how, as he defeated the impossibly tall Leprechaun.
May yours discussions allways be fruitfull
Posts: 12 | Registered: January 30, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Actually, there is good supporting evidence that Shadow's mother is of an African-American and Native American admixture.

As others have noted in regards to his likely African (-American) ancestry:
- Shadow is described as having coffee-and-cream skin, which is common in people who are 1/2 to 1/8 black.

- Several characters have noted or hinted at Shadow's racial ambiguity

- Shadow's mom died of Cycle Cell Anemia, a disease which is prevalent in people of SubSaharan African descent

- When Shadow dies and gives away his name, he sees a flashback of his mother and Wednesday at a disco. He notes that Wednesday's pale skin contrasts sharply with the darkness of his mother's

- At the end of the book Shadow is in Iceland and notes that the women are slender and pale, unlike his mother.

Shadow is not immediately identifiable as black, which makes me think his mom is not fully black, but possible half native American. This would fit in well with the recurring motif of Shadow "finding his tribe" and all of the native American imagery and dreams.

I like to take this further and say that it is a subtle nod at how Shadow represents America in and of itself. We see how the gods have transformed in America, and in Shadow we see an anthropomorphic manifestation of America: outwardly generic white, peppered with Africa and with old ties to the indigenous people.

Sort of off-topic, but try Googling pictures of Wentworth Miller. He is approximately a quarter black. He has dark hair, grey eyes, an olive skin tone and a vaguely exotic look, but your first impression is that he is white. This is what I imagine Shadow to look like, only bigger and taller.
Posts: 2 | Registered: October 30, 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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