Friday, January 22, 2010

Oops, Bloomsbury does it again! A Book With A Black Main Character Gets A White Person On The Cover! And It's Not "Liar" - It's "Magic Under Glass!"

So when Justine Larbalestier's "Liar" came out, this was the cover:

There was a BIG stink made, and rightly so, over the fact that, um... the main character WASN'T a white girl. She was black. Even the author voiced her respectful disappointment with the cover misrepresenting her book, and something amazing happened: The cover was changed. Here's the new cover.

So, moving on. You'd think the lesson would have been learned, wouldn't you?

You'd be wrong.

So the same publishers (Bloomsbury) come out with Jaclyn Dolamore's "Magic Under Glass."

Here's the cover:

So does that young woman match, as it says on page 96, a main character who would say "[The dress] dipped low in back and front...exposing what seemed like far too much of my brown skin."

Um, NO.

Once again, a YA book starring a person of color is being made to look - by the cover - as a YA book about a white person.

And that's really a disservice to the story, and to the readers.

As Ari from Reading In Color put it so heart-wrenchingly in her "Open Letter to Bloomsbury Kids USA,"

Do you know how sad I feel when my middle school age sister tells me she would rather read a book about a white teen than a person of color because "we aren't as pretty or interesting." She doesn't know the few books that do exist out there about people of color because publishing houses like yourself, don't put people of color on the covers.

The upside? This publisher responded to the public pressure and shame of what they did once, by changing the cover for "Liar." We should raise our voices along with Ari and many others, and express how important it is (to all publishers) to not white-wash the ethnicity of the characters when they design their covers.

Now here's the breaking news: Bloomsbury just announced "Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of Magic Under Glass. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly."

I'm glad they're gonna change this one, too, but shouldn't the lesson have been learned by now?

Wanna contact Bloomsbury and share your thoughts?

You can e-mail Bloomsbury editorial here:

And of course, you can share what you write them here in comments!

Interestingly, this is an issue that's popping up all over the place:

Bookshelves of doom has a great piece about "The Mysterious Benedict Society" books, where the character of Sticky is brown-skinned in the inside illustrations and um, white on the covers of book #2 and #3!

And there's a new fantasy anthology by Chinese writers where they've made the cover image of the dragon a Western (read: white) dragon rather than an Asian (read: ethnic) dragon. Seriously.

Here's one more thing you can do: The lovely Nathalie Mvondo has created a petition to All Publishing Houses, letting them know that as readers, we'll still buy the books if the covers accurately represent the characters within! It's elegant and very polite, and you can sign it here.


Thanks to Ari for getting the word out and being so amazing, and Charlotte, for pulling so many great quotes from "Magic Under Glass" where the character of Nimira refers to how she looks! My appreciation to EVERYONE who joined in the protest, and also thanks to Nathalie, for letting me know about Bloomsbury's change of heart on the cover for "Magic Under Glass!"


Leila said...

Re: The Mysterious Benedict series: same goes for Book #1 as well -- I just didn't have a copy at hand when I put the post together.

ivanova said...

When I was a teenager I read Octavia E. Butler's DAWN for the first time, and was very confused and annoyed that the African-American main character was white on the cover. Later books in the series had main characters that were of a new species--half alien and half human--and they didn't mind giving those alien characters brown skin in the cover art! Eventually the reprint of DAWN featured a cover with an African-American woman on it. They were different imprints but I'm almost positive that Warner (now Hachette) was the publisher of both. By the way, both covers featured a naked woman covering her boobies. Which is an important moment in the story but I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The white-woman cover is showing more skin and the black-woman cover is more modest.

Anonymous said...

Now, how does that saying go?

"Don't fool us once -- shame on you. Don't fool us twice -- shame on..."
Wait. That is just obstinately offensive and stupid."

Anonymous said...

Ivanova, thank you for the Octavian E. Butler's reference!

Peaceful Reader said...

I read Liar with the new cover and am still confused as to why the decision was made to put a white girl on the cover. I've put Magic Under Glass on my to-read list. Thanks for the up-date.

susan said...

You can also join Readers Against WhiteWashing. On our Facebook page you'll find news of new incidents and learn about articles and sites that actively promote brown. If we want publishers to know we're serious about diversity, we have to promote. We are eliminating the excuse that readers don't know where to look or are unaware of POC.

matthew said...

this happens all the time with Ursula K. LeGuin's books - her main characters are frequently POC but are almost always represented white on both her book covers as well as the (terrible) movies that get made of them

Charlotte said...

Thanks for the link back--I'm so glad so many people found my compilation of the Data useful!

Danny said...

It is a sad situation...publishers do not care about truth, but only about what sells (i.e. effective marketing). If a wester dragon sells better than an asian dragon, the asian dragon will never make it on the cover (and that should we western, not white, as the entire western society sees dragons the same way, not just the white race). This very controversy in the Kidlitosphere is drumming up adverstisement for the may well have been planned: the old axiom is "there is no such thing as bad publicity". That book is more well known know that it ever was before, and the publishers know that only through the unlikely happening of readers being willing to punish the authors and the children can the parents sway the industry. A total boycott of great books by loving parents is unlikely, so publishers seem to be using low tactics to achieve advertisement in the Kidlitosphere via controversey and then are willing to correct the cover issues and let you do the publicity work for them. Perhaps if you all drilled the author the next time an incident like this happened, and rather than trying to change it, try to get the author to a new publisher that does not do this...then see what moral fiber that author is made of, and what reasons that author gives for staying with the worthless publisher. If the author won't change publishers, then let it be known to the public that the author supported what the publisher did, and perhaps that author will not be so supported by the readers, and a boycott could be enacted against the author (perhaps the publisher too) and the publisher woudld be much more hesitant to ever use this tactic again.