Real life. Yes, the devastion in Haiti, that too. But I’d also like to talk about a teen book blogger named Ari.
She’s a teen who writes a blog called Reading in Color. Ari happened to hear about a wonderful YA novel called Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore (I plan to pick up the book, because of Ari’s blogpost).
You can imagine her dismay when she became aware that the cover didn’t remotely look like the main protagonist. Here is Ari’s blog link. I think she can explain her hurt better than I can paraphrase it – http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/
***Because of Ari’s heartfelt plea, I decided to edit my comic storyline to shed light on this troubling practice by some book publishers ***
I’m going to reprint her entire blog post also:
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Hello. My name is Ari and here at my blog I review YA books about people of color. Right when I was starting up my blog, controversy over your US Liar cover broke out. Allow me to jog your memory, since you’ve made the exact same mistake. Liar is about Micah a “nappy-headed”, tomboy, African American girl. Your original cover had a white girl on it. After many bloggers protested, including the author herself you changed the US cover to the image of an African American girl, she even looks bi-racial, like Micah. Now I don’t want this to be a history lesson, but I ask you, why have you made the exact same mistake? I’m talking about Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore. The main character, Nimira is described as “dark-skinned.” The model on the book is definitely not dark-skinned. Do publishers even read the book when they make the cover? Here are some quotes to help you out. I’ll help you out, on page 96, Nimira says “exposing my brown skin.” (thanks Charlotte!) Hmmm, the model does not have brown skin. And if you used a particularly light skinned model, well that still doesn’t help since she doesn’t look like a person of color and if the book describes her as dark skinned than use a dark skinned model (and I know they exist!)
Please note that I do not in any way blame the author. I’ve read her comments on the subject and I’ve seen her book trailer (perhaps you should watch it), she clearly states and shows that Nimira is dark-skinned (also look at her pictures of her characters). This is your fault, not Ms. Dolamore’s. Through blogging, especially after the Liar issue, I’ve learned that the author has no say in his or her cover. I think that is so wrong and should be corrected. Perhaps then you (and other publishing houses) wouldn’t continuously anger people and create covers that look nothing like how the authors envisioned. I also know that the the cover for Magic Under Glass was created before the Liar controversy. But that’s no excuse. What would posses you to think you could get away with this? Do you really think your teen readers are that stupid and shallow that we will not read books with people of color on the cover? Newsflash: It’s the 21st century, we have an African American president and as long as the book is good, no one cares about what the main character looks like! Furthermore, I think the cover of Magic Under Glass is gorgeous. I love the glass, the dress/corset and how the cover screams “historical fantasy.” It would have been even better with a dark-skinned model. If you’re not going to consult the author about the cover, at least read the book yourself so you don’t look like fools when you make a cover that doesn’t fit the book! Did you really think that since the cover of Magic Under Glass was finished before Liar, that you could get away with saying nothing? You should have AT LEAST recognized your mistake, apologized and promised to make the paperback version have a person of color on the cover (since it is very expensive to publish books and changing the cover even more so). Obviously, you thought we teen bloggers would simply not notice or even care. Well guess what, we do. Check out the comments of this post, I’m compiling a list of all the reactions out there on the blogopshere. This is not a one time issue and you will not be let off the hook.
ETA (really I just want to clarify): I do not think a boycott of Magic Under Glass is the best way to go as the author has worked really hard on her book and she wrote about a person of color and we should be grateful for that especially since the book has gotten good reviews. In fact, I’ll probably review it (so at least this issue promoted some good discussion and hopefully change as well as introducing me to a new book I may have otherwise missed). We should keep blogging, emailing, writing about this issue.
I’m sure you can’t imagine what it’s like to wander through the teen section of a bookstore and only see one or two books with people of color on them. Do you know how much that hurts? Are we so worthless that the few books that do feature people of color don’t have covers with people of color? It’s upsetting, it makes me angry and it makes me sad. Can you imagine growing up as a little girl and wanting to be white because not only do you not see people who look like you on TV, you don’t see them in your favorite books either. You get discouraged and you want to be beautiful and be like the characters in the books you read and you start to believe that you can’t be that certain character because you don’t look like them. I love the books I grew up with, but none of them featured people of color. I found those later, when I was older and I started looking for them. 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. He reads books where skin color isn’t really mentioned at all (like Diary of a Wimpy Kid which is a funny book). I want my siblings and all other children of color to want to read books about people of color without feeling like they don’t exist, that we aren’t cool or interesting. If I can read a book about a white teen than why can’t a white teenager read a book about a Black/Latino/Asian/Native American teen? We all go through the same experiences, we all face discrimination of some sort whether it be based on gender, race or sexual orientation. Sure, in realistic fiction teens of color are going to face racism, but that’s realistic and it’s something white teens should know. They need to recognize that racism isn’t dead, but that skin color should not matter. We are all the same underneath. We also need more historical fiction that tells the full story of America, not just the white history of America and a little slavery and civil rights (for some suggestions read my post about the lack of people of color in historical fiction)And in sci fi/fantasy books, what does race matter? A Cherokee witch is just as cool as a white witch, a Latina vampire hunter can kick just as much butt as a white vampire hunter, etc. Their experiences are the same, there’s no racial prejudice in fantasy worlds (there are some exceptions).
Bloomsbury, you’ve brought this upon yourself. As they say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Well the joke’s on me for believing that publishing houses actually cared about putting people of color on covers, that publishing houses would actually want diverse stories. And to think, before I started blogging, I assumed it was the author’s fault. That they weren’t writing the stories about people of color, that they could control their covers. now I know, the stories are being written, just not published and the author has no control over the cover. I’m considering becoming a CEO of a publishing house and being committed to having books about people of color as well as letting my authors help pick their covers.
I hope the other publishing houses take note, because they will be called out. I’m not just picking on you, Bloomsbury. Your problem is, you’ve done the same thing twice. I don’t want to hurt the author, I really respect her and the book sounds good, but I can not (will not) buy a book that is supposed to be about a dark-skinned girl, when the cover features a White model. I hope you rectify this as soon as possible.
Ari Reading in Color
Events beyond our fantasy world continue to unfold, and no one vaguely human can fail to be horrified and moved by the images coming out of Haiti’s devastation. Artist Mike Cavallaro has organized a website, Heroes 4 Haiti with information on how concerned creators and readers can help:
Heroes 4 Haiti is a grassroots movement of artists seeking to raise money for organizations helping victims of the recent Haitian earthquake. Heroes 4 Haiti is not an organization, it’s a collective response to human tragedy. We’re asking everyone to donate a little bit of their talent, money or time towards helping those in need.
Please join us in helping our fellow human beings by creating art and auctioning it off for charity by listing it yourself using eBay’s Giving Works program, by bidding in these auctions, by donating to relief organizations, or by volunteering your time to helping rebuild Haiti in the wake of this catastrophe.
How You Can Help:
Heroes 4 Haiti seeks to raise money for victims of the Haitian earthquake. You can help in one of the following ways:
Donate Art — Using your own eBay account, please donate or create art to be listed on eBay with 100% of each auction’s proceeds being donated to the Haitian relief organization of your choice via eBay Giving Works. Right now when you log in at eBay, there’s a link to support Haitian relief that takes you to eBay Giving Works and that gives you the option to sell your art. Please choose the charity you prefer and let us know that you’re doing it so we can list you here as part of the cause. Posting an auction? Please let us know by posting a link to it in the comments section of this post!
Donate Collectibles or Services — Using your own eBay account, please donate collectibles or services to be listed on eBay with 100% of each auction’s proceeds being donated to the Haitian relief organization of your choice via eBay Giving Works. Right now when you log in at eBay, there’s a link to support Haitian relief that takes you to eBay Giving Works and that gives you the option to sell your art. Please choose the charity you prefer and let us know that you’re doing it so we can list you here as part of the cause. Posting an auction? Please let us know by posting a link to it in the comments section of this post!
Bid On These Auctions — Check the thank you section below for links to auctions for art, collectibles, and services connected to Heroes 4 Haiti. See something you like here? Please bid on these items! Check frequently in the days to come as we update with links to art offered for Haitian relief!
Spread The Word! — Feel free to copy this post and email it to your friends or contacts, or please link to this blog! Heroes 4 Haiti isn’t an organization, it’s people helping people. Everyone can help in their own way! Please help us spread the word about these easy ways to support the Haitian people!
Please tweet us too! Here are some sample tweets to spread the word:
Comics creators auctioning art for Haiti relief http://heroes4haiti.com / http://heroes4haiti-fb.com / Please RT!
Calling all artists! Donate work to auction for Haiti relief http://heroes4haiti.com / http://heroes4haiti-fb.com / Please RT
Donate art & collectibles to help Haiti relief http://heroes4haiti.com / http://heroes4haiti-fb.com / Please RT!
Comics community comes together to help Haiti http://heroes4haiti.com / http://heroes4haiti-fb.com / Please RT!
Check out http://heroes4haiti.com / – where artists (and non-artists with $$) can unite to help the the people of Haiti. (RT if you pleas
Donate Money — Charity Navigator has a list of organizations working to provide relief in Haiti, please support them with your direct donations.
Volunteer — If you have technical skills in health or engineering, or prior disaster relief experience, you may be able to volunteer your time to help rebuild in Haiti. Information about registering your skills to help in Haiti can be found at the Center for International Disaster Information website.
For the latest developments on Heroes 4 Haiti, please join our Facebook page at http://heroes4haiti-fb.com/