Following Bloomsbury’s Whitewashing Cover Fiasco ’09-’10 (Justine Larbalestier’s Liar and Jaclyn Dolamore’s Magic Under Glass), readers were able to make some small positive change resulting in the publisher’s book jacket retraction and subsequent re-issuance of new, race-conscious covers.
This is great news. Awesome news, in fact. And, as a community of vocal, impassioned readers, we should be proud. But, if the controversy surrounding Magic Under Glass has shown us anything, it is that COVERS MATTER. The whitewashing of Liar and Magic Under Glass are not isolated incidents – this is a problem that has pervaded the industry for a very long time, and continues today.
Thus, we have decided to start a monthly feature called “Cover Matters.” The motivation for this feature is not because we think we are influential or on some sort of blogger power trip. Rather, we simply care about covers and books. A cover is a book’s first impression; it’s the equivalent of eye-contact and a smile from across the room. Covers can be an important factor in noticing and deciding to purchase a book. Beyond the first impression, we reflect on covers whilst reading and after finishing a book too.
We want this feature to dedicate more separate space to a topic that has always intrigued, irked, and befuddled us. In these posts, we plan to touch on not only racist cover practices (as with Liar and Magic Under Glass), but other cover issues too (covers in poor taste, misleading or completely inaccurate covers, and, of course, covers that manage to get it right). We are writing these pieces because we do care about cover issues – whether they be about whitewashing, slenderizing, homogenizing, etc. Cover Matters does not have any agenda beyond creating a space for an ongoing discussion of book covers.
We plan on getting guests (bloggers, authors, publishers or even cover artists if possible) to join us for these monthly pieces, with the following question in mind: Do covers matter?
In closing, we’ve got a few cover-related issues around the web that we’d like to bring up.
Firstly, we’d like to draw attention to a post over at Bookshelves of Doom that takes a look at The Mysterious Benedict Society books. It seems that while the illustrations within the book are accurate and depict a character named Sticky as “a skinny boy with light brown skin, anxious eyes (though perhaps the anxiety came from not yet having recovered his breath), and a completely bald head,”
the covers of the books show a skinny, bald, white character instead:
These books have been around since 2007 and are published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. You can contact Little, Brown here:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
We encourage everyone to write to Little, Brown and share your feelings concerning these covers.
What else can you do, if you’re interested in these cover practices, beyond writing letters and blog posts? Well, you can also send a message via sales – and sign up for the Persons of Color Reading Challenge.
All you have to do is commit to reviewing as few as 1 and as many as 25 (or heck, more if you feel like it!) books from a POC author or featuring POC characters. You can find book and author suggestions HERE, and link your reviews to the challenge HERE. We are definitely on board and will make a conscious effort to review qualifying books this year.
Thirdly, as a direct result of the Magic Under Glass situation, a facebook fan group has been created, called Readers Against WhiteWashing with the following mission:
* Fails to accurately represent race and diversity
* Says people of color do not matter
* Denies readers positive and diverse representation
RAWW is committed to public criticism of publishers who misrepresent characters.
We again encourage everyone to sign up and check it out.
Finally, we’d like to close our inaugural Cover Matters post we have a question for you, dear readers and please feel free to speak your mind:
Do covers matter to you? If so, how much? If not, why?