There's been a lot of buzz about the issue of whitewashing YA and children's book covers. Specifically:
- Liar by Justine Larbaliester: the original cover portrayed a woman with white skin and straight hair, not the African-American character as written in the book. After much brouhaha, Bloomsbury redid the cover.
- Magic Under Glass, also Bloomsbury: main character has dark skin, but cover has a model with white skin. Again, cover was redone, but only after ranting and raving from bloggers. You'd think they'd learn?
- The Mysterious Benedict Society books: Sticky, a character of color, has been presented as white (or even albino) on covers. Little, Brown has agreed to amend covers, although with a notable lack of apology.
- Summaries about above issues at The Book Smugglers in their Cover Matters feature,
I like to see covers that accurately represent the people inside. I get very annoyed if they don't. I will buy books about characters regardless of their race, but in cases like mysteries, fantasies and SF, I'm more likely to buy a book if it has a person of color on the cover because I think they are so poorly represented in these genre.
If I used Facebook for things other than private communication, it might matter more that I've joined Readers Against White Washing. As it is, I'm happy to suggest you do the same.
In a related note, there's been a lot of conversation on child_lit about boys not wanting to read books with girls on the cover, such as Calpurnia Tate or Ella Enchanted. One of the solutions posted was to remove the cover and sell the book without it. I've gotten rather uppity about this solution.
Sharon Levin said it very well:
So, really, what we’re saying is that boys are interesting and girls are boring. We wonder how any boy could be interested in what girls are up to, even though in any good book, the story, conflict, etc. should be interesting enough to be a good read for ANYONE.... As I was ranting on the way home from the airport after the conference the spousal unit said “Would any of these people hold up a book about an African-American child and say to a white kid, ‘you wouldn’t like this, it’s about a black kid’? Well, of course not, that would be racist. So, why in the world is sexism not only accepted, but reinforced, taught even, by those we hope know better?I am wishing we lived in a society where we did not have to redirect boys after they see covers with girls on them, knowing we don't have to make that effort with girls and covers with boys on them. Even more, though, I am wanting a world in which we, as teachers and librarians and parents, explicitly teach our children about racism, sexism and homophobia when we encounter such moments ("Here, read this great book!" "No, it has a girl on it -- I'm a boy, I want to read a boy book." "Do you know you were being sexist just now?" "What's sexist?" etc.). I hear people saying they don't do that. That, frankly, pisses me off.
Labels: covers, whitewashing