Monday, January 25, 2010

Color Covergate

What a week its been in the world of young adult book cover design! Another book surfaced featuring the image of a light-skinned protagonist when the story clearly states that she is a person of color. Same publisher even (Bloomsbury).

Now yet another book's cover has been challenged due to an apparent lack of dark brown pigment in the artist's palette, this one from Little, Brown.

Opinions were given. Hackles were raised. Feelings were hurt. Apologies were made. Books were recalled. That was last week.

But we need to keep this issue alive. As far as what my (Carol's) personal opinion is on what happened and what it means, I had planned a lengthy analysis--but this blogger said what I had planned to say and did it better and so thoroughly that I needn't repeat everything. Sighs of relief all around.

Point being: For as long as publishers hang on to this (rather tired, in my humble opinion) trend of producing young adult book jackets with photographs of partial humans on them (partial photographs of humans? photographs of human partials?), let's please buy books with diverse cover images. I don't know why Bloomsbury thinks we won't. Not only do they seem to think that Caucasians aren't interested in novels about Black or Asian characters, but (even worse) they apparently think that young adults of color aren't buying books at all.

So, buy. Might I suggest Rita Williams-Garcia's latest book, which was reviewed in the New York Times last week, One Crazy Summer (Amistad, 2010)? Coming soon, I hope, an interview about the great cover on that one.

Now, on to what I had planned to talk about, which is . . .
. . . people of color on book jackets. Um, see, the plan was to point you, dear readers, in the direction of another silhouetted image (see our earlier posts on the subject here and here) on a book that's coming out Fall, 2010 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux:

Finding My Place, written by Traci L Jones.

A silhouette, yes, which could make you think the jacket designers were avoiding the whole skin color issue. But I think we can safely say that the figure is meant to represent an African American, judging by the hair--right? It's definitely a person with naturally curly hair, like me. And there is nothing more attractive than naturally curly hair.

So it's been an interesting week in the world of YA book covers. And what's the upshot? Awareness was raised again, perhaps even more so now that everyone realizes that the Liar controversy wasn't just an isolated incident. We knew that already, didn't we, dear readers? And although last week has passed, there will undoubtedly be more vigilance from kidlit bloggers regarding what goes on the cover of a novel for young readers. And hopefully, someone over at Bloomsbury will make an effort to ensure that the book's cover is right BEFORE the book hits the shelves next time.

Now, who wants to talk about how unattainably skinny the girl on Magic Under Glass is?


  1. Not to mention the Under Glass chica is wearing a corset. Yikes.

    I like silhouettes, but I've disliked them showing off girls' figures -- I can't say I like it when cover designers give us a face and take away the right to imagine what a character looks like - not to mention not getting the ethnicity correct - but silhouette and form are dicey, too, with the number of FEMALES on the cover of YA books.

    We'll be back at headless girl torsos before you know it...

  2. Yes, Tanita! It's a wonder that they use photos at all when there are so many other options--and talented illustrators--out there which could be used to make a cover really stand out. Do teens really prefer books with photos of people on them? Because so many books for adults are coming out with exciting graphically artistic designs on their jackets which don't fall back on using (yawn) stock photos.

  3. Oh! And congratulations, Tanita on your novel MARE'S WAR's listing on the BBYA Best Books list, 2010!

  4. The cover for Rita Williams-Garcia's new book, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, which you mention, Carol, is SUCH a great cover - a completely engaging and energetic black face smiling right out at us, and no one at her publishing house thought they had to disguise the girl's ethnicity. What on earth is Bloomsbury's problem???

    Check out ONE CRAZY SUMMER's cover at

  5. I really like the cover of One crazy Summer and the book is great! I don't mind covers with people's faces on them, it's nice to see POC represented on the covers of books, it just happens to rarely! I fully intend on staying vigilant and hopefully the publishing industry will wake up and publish more diverse books, with accurate covers (here's a thought: why not allow authors to have a say in the cover? *gasp* what an idea!)

  6. I bet there isn't an author out there who doesn't imagine just what the cover of their book might look like the minute they type THE END on the manuscript. So yes, why not let them have a say?

  7. Me again. I want to play fair and note that Bloomsbury offers several selections on their list with people of color on the covers. Notably, Laurie Halse Anderson's CHAINS is getting a new cover in February