Ari at Reading in Color blogs about the latest YA fantasy novel with a whitewashed cover. Yep, it's yet another instance of Bloomsbury US taking a novel with a dark-skinned protagonist and putting a white-looking model on the American cover.
This bit is particularly heartbreaking:
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. And my little brother doesn't even like to read, he wants to read about cool people who look like him, but he doesn't see those books in bookstores and now he rarely reads.
The book's author has indicated that Bloomsbury put together this cover before the controversy last summer over Justine's cover. (By the way, even aside from skin-color issues, I like Justine's revised US cover way better than the original.) So at least this may not be a case of Bloomsbury blatantly ignoring what one might hope they had learned during last summer's discussion.
But even so, they (and all the other publishers that do this) have had decades to learn this lesson. Le Guin once said: "I have fought many cover departments on this issue, and mostly lost." (Quoted in a Salon article, among many other places I've seen this.) Many others, both authors of color and white authors, have had the same experience. Authors—even those as well-known as Le Guin—rarely have any say in what their covers look like.
But I've been really pleased in recent years to see some changes in this area. Nalo Hopkinson gets people of color on her covers; so does Nnedi Okorafor; so do at least some of Tobias Buckell's books. Mary Anne's Bodies in Motion, of course (though there were other issues with that cover, and I think the situation is kinda different for Literary Fiction). And several other authors lately have had book covers showing people of color, or at least people who aren't blatantly white. I especially like the covers of the second and third of Le Guin's recent Annals of the Western Shore trilogy.
So I'm sad to see that despite such progress, the problem still hasn't gone away. It's 2010, people. Why are publishers still doing this?
Here are a few things to consider doing to help improve things:
- Write to publishers when you see this problem. I agree with Justine that boycotting this book hurts the author (who, after all, wrote a book featuring a character of color) rather than the publisher; but as we saw with Justine's book, raising enough of a fuss can make a difference. Tell publishers that you object to whitewashed covers; tell them that you buy books with people of color on the covers.
- Speaking of which: the more we buy books with people of color on the covers, the less power the old "nobody buys these books" excuse has.
- Read books by and about people of color. For example, you could take the POC Reading Challenge.
- Read relevant blogs, like Color Online and the abovelinked Reading in Color.
- Join and support the Carl Brandon Society. Note that they give awards (including thousand-dollar cash prizes!) to works of speculative fiction by people of color, and to works about race and ethnicity. Nominate works for the prizes, and read the works that win (and the ones that get shortlisted). Oh, and they also have a wiki featuring reading lists and such.
Btw, Ari also has another good post listing a bunch of links to reviews and discussion of the new book, along with some further suggestions for things you can do to help. For example, she links to the Bloomsbury Kids contact page, which includes email and papermail addresses for the publisher.
[Added a couple days later: Bloomsbury has made a public statement that they're changing the cover! Super cool!]