Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul

Repeater. Nov. 2019. 300p. ISBN 9781912248544. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781912248551. SOC SCI
What does it mean to be an African American who loves all things dark? And how does that fit into the ethos of America? These questions are posed in this uneven debut from Taylor (creative director, Brooklyn Public Library). A self-proclaimed “Afro-Goth,” the author explores why many black people relate to gothic culture. For some, it’s the music of bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees or a preference for dressing in all black. However, Taylor goes beyond dress and music to explore how an African American Goth bucks the stereotypes perpetrated by a dominant (white) culture and, by turns, embraces the dark history of the United States. Taylor is asking what is more gothic than the violent history of a country built on physical and psychological slavery. Often, the author references films and books as examples of racial violence and bigotry. But these references, while interesting to pop culture fan, do not add much to the narrative as a whole. Indeed, this is an example of a compelling argument but with too many examples and not enough of the author’s personality.
VERDICT Overall, a rare glimpse into American gothic from an African American perspective.

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