Racism and Colorism in Shadowshaper

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 602 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 602|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Representation of Racism
  2. Exploration of Colorism
  3. Impact on the Narrative
  4. Conclusion

Shadowshaper, written by Daniel José Older, is a young adult urban fantasy novel that delves into the themes of racism and colorism. The book follows the story of Sierra Santiago, a teenage girl of Puerto Rican descent living in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout the novel, Sierra encounters various forms of discrimination and prejudice based on her race and skin color, which sheds light on the pervasive issues of racism and colorism in society. This essay aims to analyze the portrayal of racism and colorism in Shadowshaper and examine how these themes contribute to the broader narrative of the story.

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Representation of Racism

One of the central themes in Shadowshaper is the portrayal of racism and its impact on the characters. Sierra Santiago, the protagonist, faces instances of racial discrimination, both overt and subtle, throughout the novel. For example, she experiences microaggressions from her classmates at school, who make derogatory remarks about her cultural heritage and ethnicity. Additionally, Sierra's interactions with law enforcement officers highlight the systemic racism present in society, as she is unfairly targeted and treated with suspicion solely based on her race.

Furthermore, the novel also explores the generational trauma caused by racism, as Sierra's family members share their experiences of prejudice and oppression. This representation of racism in Shadowshaper reflects the harsh reality faced by many individuals from marginalized communities, emphasizing the need for societal change and racial equality.

Exploration of Colorism

In addition to racism, Shadowshaper also addresses the issue of colorism within the Latinx community. Colorism refers to the discrimination or prejudice based on skin color, particularly within the same racial or ethnic group. Sierra's own experiences with colorism are depicted in the novel, as she grapples with the societal beauty standards that favor lighter skin tones. The novel portrays the internalized self-hatred and insecurity that can result from colorism, as Sierra confronts the pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty ideals.

Moreover, Shadowshaper delves into the intersectionality of racism and colorism, highlighting how individuals with darker skin tones are often subjected to compounded forms of discrimination. The novel challenges the damaging effects of colorism and emphasizes the importance of embracing one's cultural identity and heritage, irrespective of skin color.

Impact on the Narrative

The themes of racism and colorism in Shadowshaper serve to enrich the narrative and contribute to the character development and plot progression. Sierra's experiences with discrimination and prejudice shape her identity and resilience, driving her to confront the supernatural forces threatening her community. Additionally, the novel's exploration of racism and colorism adds depth to the world-building, as it portrays a realistic depiction of urban life and the social dynamics at play.

Furthermore, Shadowshaper challenges the traditional narrative tropes by centering the experiences of characters from marginalized backgrounds, offering a fresh perspective on the urban fantasy genre. The incorporation of these themes not only adds authenticity to the storytelling but also resonates with readers who can relate to the struggles faced by the characters.

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In conclusion, Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older adeptly addresses the themes of racism and colorism, providing a poignant commentary on the societal issues prevalent in contemporary urban settings. Through the portrayal of Sierra Santiago's experiences, the novel sheds light on the pervasive nature of discrimination and prejudice based on race and skin color. By challenging these systemic injustices, Shadowshaper not only offers a compelling narrative but also prompts readers to critically examine the real-world implications of racism and colorism. Ultimately, the novel serves as a powerful platform for promoting empathy, understanding, and social change in the face of adversity.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Racism and Colorism in Shadowshaper. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
“Racism and Colorism in Shadowshaper.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Racism and Colorism in Shadowshaper. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2024].
Racism and Colorism in Shadowshaper [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 Jun 24]. Available from:
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