Monday, January 18, 2010

Race-Fail 2.0 at Bloomsbury

If you visit a lot of book blogger sites, especially YA blogs, you will have been aware of the controversy surrounding the cover for the book Liar by Justine Larbalestier. The book was about a "Nappy-headed...African American" young girl. The cover for the U.S. came out with a white person on the cover. The publisher? Bloomsbury. Ironically, I remember seeing another cover version for Liar, either from UK or Australia (I forget) with an young girl of color. This matches the description of the book, except mayber her hairdo. But Bloomsbury found it necessary to whitewash the cover for us in the U.S. Insulting on their part. One of their lame excuses -well, the girl is supposed to be a liar, what if she wasn't really black? (this is paraphrased by me because I can't find the original page- found) . Rightfully so, there was a lot of controversy on the net over this and Bloombury re-vamped the cover. Now the model looks like an AfricanAmerican, except her hair isn't exactly nappy-headed (or I am using an old interpretation of Nappy). A lot of us were happy that Bloomsbury "saw the light" with their RaceFail 1.0.

Now for RaceFail 2.0 - There is a book, steampunk fantasy called Magic under Glass. The main character says "exposing by brown skin" on page 96 (taken from Reading in Color). Now look at the cover.
At best, this cover model has a tan, but really the glow is from the light (we all look a little darker indoors). The UK cover isn't much better. Less obvious, but to me, it looks like two caucasions. I'm wondering (haven't been able to read the book yet) if the UK cover has anything at all to do with the contents of the book. The main problem with me and a lot of others is the arrogant way that Bloomsbury, and I'm sure plenty of other publishers, assume that books will sell better with a caucasions on the cover. A lot of bloggers and readers are upset about this. A lot of people are NOT going to buy this book or others published by Bloomsbury. The sad thing about this is that the author is going to be the one that suffers the most because of Bloomsbury's shortsightedness. Because they made another race mistake, Jacqueline Dolamore's sales probably will suffer. Will she then be able to sell another book? Or will Bloomsbury decided because her sales dropped not to contract for another book by her. Criminal.
Get with it people, America is not, never has been completely white. We never will be (Sorry Aryian Nation - not going to happen - too bad for you). This country is full of Spanish, African, Asian, Indian, Egyptian....etc people. A lot of us have interbred and now there's a lot of mixed race people also. This means, Publishers, that not all of us are white. Most of us are people of color. In fact there are a lot of us who look white, but aren't. Yet our relatives are dark-skinned. You are affecting way more people than you realize. You can be assured that a lot of us, despite not being white, buy books to read. Maybe we would buy more of we were represented more in the covers of books. It's sad to think that the cover models are chosen because publishers believe only white sells. They need to rethink this, start coloring things up a bit - they'll see, given enough publicity by the publishers, covers that are indicative of the story and characters, good novels chosen in the first place, these books do have a big chance of selling. Stop ignoring the large non-caucasion population with your "demographic" choices of covers.
Others who have put in their opinion:
I know there's more, but I'm so very sick and it's time for me to go back to bed.
I wrote a letter to Bloomsbury last night, though I forgot to actually mention the name of Magic Under Glass. At any rate, in general it's a good letter and appropriate at any time.


How difficult could it be to get a basic description of the main characters of a book by the author of the book and get this...ACTUALLY FOLLOW THE DESCRIPTION in regards to the book cover. Are you afraid that only white skinned people are the only ones buying books, and that we weill only buy books with white people on the cover? if so, how insulting. Believe - there are many different skin-colors out there, and many different races with a variety of shades. And a lot of us buy books. I myself, though I am very lightskinned, am half-hispanic. So as a mixed race person, with mixed race grandchildren I abhor the thought that a lot of the books being published for children have mainly caucasion models on the cover. This is giving the impression that only the caucasions are worth noting, only they count. This is a rotten impression to give children. Remember that a large percentage of children in this country are NOT white; they are black, spanish, asian, indeed many are a mix of races and ethinicities.

When an author writes a "diverse" cast of characters into a novel, you as a publisher should respect her/his writing enough to reflect the diversity in a cover. After the Liar debacle I would have thought that someone was getting a clue. Afterall, you stand to make money off of the books you are publishing - show the novels and writers, as well as the readers enough respect to have your covers MATCH the description of the main characters. It can't be that hard to do.

If the person is described as olive-toned, then put a model who fits that on the cover. If they are described as asian then for god's sake find an asian model to depict. If they are overweight - put an overweight model on the cover. God forbid that you should be challenged enought to have an overweight, darkskinned character to portray - most likely a book like that wouldn't even see print though. PLEASE. Stop insulting your readers, writers and the novels you publish. Start respecting them and admit that there is indeed more than one color of skin tone.

Sincerely, with dropping respect"
then I signed it with my real name.

Of course I was extremely sick, so I mispelled publisher (left out the b). Whatever-the sentiment is strong and sent to these yahoos.


  1. People say that the UK cover of Magic Under Glass is acceptable because you can't tell the race of the people on it. I disagree with them. Like you, I see two tiny Caucasians on the UK cover.

  2. Yep! two little white kids. (my kids are mostly white, but come ON!) I wanted my kids to know more about their background than I did (didn't go very well, grandma not very cooperative with this). I want my grandchildren to find lots of books with people on the cover that look like them. (one white, one brown) The caucasions are taken care of. We need to work on the brown, (all varieties).