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Darkly: Blackness and America’s Gothic Soul by Leila Taylor #AudiobookReview

Leila Taylor takes us into the dark heart of the American gothic, analysing the ways it relates to race in America in the twenty-first century.

Haunted houses, bitter revenants and muffled heartbeats under floorboards — the American gothic is a macabre tale based on a true story.

Part memoir and part cultural critique, Darkly: The Black American Gothic explores American culture’s inevitable gothicity in the traces left from chattel slavery. The persistence of white supremacy and the ubiquity of Black death feeds a national culture of terror and a perpetual undercurrent of mourning.

If the gothic narrative is metabolized fear, if the goth aesthetic is romanticized melancholy, what does that look and sound like in Black America?

Title: Darkly: Blackness and America’s Gothic Soul | Author: Leila Taylor | Narrator: Lachele Carl | Publisher: Repeater Books | Pub. Date: November 11, 2019 | Genre: Non-Fiction | Length: 5hrs and 49min | ISBN13: 9781912248544 | Language: English | Content Warnings: None | Source: Self=Purchased | Starred Review

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Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul Review

Darkly was an amazing listen. Part memoir the author leads us through her life as a teen and young adult in the Goth aesthetic landscape as a black woman. She’s seen and been to some pretty amazing places (a concert in Europe at Whitby? Yes please!). Her life and experiences inform a lot of her outlook on the Goth culture and it would be such an interesting listen just for that alone.

The history aspect is what I found intensely interesting. I love history and I’m always open to learning what I don’t know. The information that I did know was presented in a new light from a voice that was knowledgeable and passionate. I believe this would have come through without the aid of narration. The voice of the book has an introspective quality to it that was very interesting. As though, while writing it the author was still trying to figure some things out. It made for a very personal feeling listen.

The chapters weave through her life and history of music, movies, and books and she does a damn good job of cutting to the core of what she’s talking about. She compares being black in America to being the monster, the other, and likens other groups to being the Other of the moment. As much as I wish it weren’t true, she’s not wrong. She uses history and media to reinforce her opinions and how much harm that causes and how long it has lasted.

This is an excellent quote from the book:

Regarding the film adaptation of Beloved Mark Fisher wrote: “Some viewers complain that Beloved should have been reclassified as horror.
Well, so should American history.

Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul

The narrator that was chosen for this was perfect. She really makes it feel as though she is talking about her own life. Her voice isn’t bland and dispassionately just reading what’s on the page. She really brings it to life. You can hear the justified anger while listening. Brilliant narrator choice for a brilliant book.

The tone sounds very conversational despite the dark subject matter. It’s like you’re sitting with a friend, having that end-of-party serious conversation that we’ve all had.

I usually go chapter by chapter for nonfiction but I’m having a hard time doing that with this book. One chapter flows into another almost seamlessly but distinct from each other. From the true story behind Candyman to Billie Holiday’s song, Strange Fruit. There’s so much here.

It’s hard to call such a heavy book entertaining but it is. I don’t mean entertaining as in it’s hilarious but entertaining as in it engaged my mind. The writer has a gift for putting the autobiographical and history side by side. Making it beautiful and poetic and informative. I felt so many things listening to this. I felt anger, hatred, disbelief, amused, and her thoughts on funerals and church made me smile. It’s a hell of a listen.

Published inAudiobooksNon-fic Genre RelatedStarred Reviews
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