Tuesday, January 19, 2010

White washing covers: Please get involved!

I was going to write a cheerful post today about the pros/cons of writing, but something really pissed me off, and I had to talk about it.

Remember when the cover of Justine Larbalestier's book, LIAR, came out with a white cover and had to be changed? Well, I gave Bloomsbury kudos for doing the right thing and fixing the cover.

You can imagine my dismay when I read this post over at The Rejectionist. You guessed it: THEY DID IT AGAIN!

Becca is displeased.

Check out this cover for MAGIC UNDER GLASS, Jaclyn Dolamore's debut novel about a dark skinned girl "from the far east." Um... yeah. Whitey McWhiterson on the cover doesn't scream "far east" to me. Unlike Justine, Jaclyn is a newbie to the publishing world and didn't have the means to get support for a cover change before the book went out.

So, what can we do about it? Is Bloomsbury going to set an example for our kids (as well as other publishers) that we can white-wash everything and get away with it? That this isn't offensive? How can we support an author writing about a person of color, but still let Bloomsbury know that this shizna doesn't fly?

Well, I'll tell you what I did. I wrote to them this morning. Here's the email I sent:

Dear Bloomsbury,

I wanted to email to complain about the white model on the cover of Jaclyn Dolamore’s debut, MAGIC UNDER GLASS. Since the book is about a dark skinned girl from the far east, this cover is really inappropriate, and sends the message that you don’t support people of color. What kind of message is this, especially for our youth?

This happened with LIAR, and now it’s happening again—it’s getting pretty shameful. I’m a white lady, but still find it offensive to change the color of a character simply under the guise of helping sales. Please, take this to heart. I don’t mean to be disrespectful or unkind, but this kind of thing really has to stop if we’re going to make any progress against racism as a nation. Please help, and listen to your customers who are speaking out against this. I’m a regular book lover and buyer, and wanted to let you know my thoughts.

Thank you for listening, and hopefully implementing change. Good luck to you, and God bless! I know it’s difficult to promote change when something’s been common practice for so long. I believe in the industry, and in your business, so please make your customers proud.


Becca Knight

In all things, I think we need to be respectful, which is why I didn't send my first email, which said simply, "WTF! STOP IT!!! Love, Becca."

I urge you to please get involved and contact Bloomsbury. Especially, right after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, please be reminded that racism in America is not dead, and that we all have a chance to fight for change.

Here is Bloomsbury's contact info:

Editorial and Marketing office:
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Phone: 646-307-5151
Fax: 212-780-0115

Thank you to all who email, write, or call!

What is your take on this topic? I'd love to hear from you!


Jo Treggiari said...

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
Shameful and I can't believe it was the same publisher as with the LIAR debacle.
I suppose they think that the mass public won't be interested in a book that appears to be too ethnic.
This is an old-fashioned stereotype and they apparently still have blinders on, otherwise they would have noticed how diverse our world is.
I feel very sorry for the author, and this demonstrates how little control authors have unless they are big sellers.
I'll write to Bloomsbury today. I'm interested in what they have to say but the fact that this has happened twice seems like an ingrained prejudice or policy rather than a coincidence, so I think I'll be boycotting them.

Rebecca Knight said...

Jo: Thanks for getting involved! I find this whole situation so sad for the author :(. I definitely understand boycotting, but wish there were a better way to let Bloomsbury know how we feel without hurting their authors.

Lisa Dale said...


You are truly a model to us all to not only see and problem but to take action.

You are officially my hero for the day!

Love love love!

Lisa Dale

Rebecca Knight said...

Wow! That really touched me, and I'm not quite sure what to say. *blushes furiously*.

Thanks so much, Lisa! :)

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

You are a very brave woman, I respect you so much! It is shameful and racist. I belong to a group W.A.R. Writers Against Racism and my blog deals with the dream of respectful, sincere and honest dialog about racial issues and feelings. I support you and will also contact the publisher. Again you are my hero and I am smiling right now. I'm pulling for your 100th follower. Visit me soon.

Rebecca Knight said...

Debra--I loved your post for MLK day :)! Very moving, and so true.

Thanks for pulling for me--you are too sweet!

Lisa Amowitz said...

Good for you for speaking out, Becca. This book is actually on my shelf waiting to be read. I only picked it up based on word of mouth. The cover would not have drawn me in at all—so formulaic. For shame. I'm happy to know the real character is much more interesting!

Iapetus999 said...

I also think her hair is off and that dress is the wrong style.


Rebecca Knight said...

Lisa: You'll have to tell us how it is! The story sounds fascinating :).

Lapetus: Haha! Could be!

Yunaleska said...

I find this interesting because the UK version of the cover is completely different (I have a review on my blog...somewhere...with the English cover). There's no indication of skin colour on my cover.

Kate said...

I am actually really shocked that this happens. As said previously the Uk cover doesn;t feature a model but it really saddens me that racism can be so very alive and well and I think it is great that you have raised awareness of this.

Kate xx

Lisa and Laura said...

I'm still laughing at "Whitey McWhiterson." Awesome.

It's disturbing on so many levels that this continues to happen. I just can't understand WHY? And I'd never pick up the book based on that cover anyways, so whatever it is they were trying to do they failed. Epically.

Rebecca Knight said...

Kate: That is crazy that the UK cover is normal! Why just America? :( Sadness.

LiLa: I don't get it, either. Total #racefail. Besides how do these people know that white covers sell better unless they try the alternative??

Okay, stepping off my soapbox again ;).

Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to read this for a while, since it's in my TBR pile, but I had no idea before it was in the news this week that there would be a colour issue. Strange that they never learn. I want to see the real characters on the covers to help me imagine how they look.