Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Next Step: What Are We Going to Do? To Boycott or Not to Boycott

Now I know that people have strong feelings about this topic, "Yes boycott it's the only way to get things done!" or "No boycotting is mean and hurtful!". But hear me out. I want to start a dialogue for solutions. I just got home from school so I'm trying to catch up on emails/comments/twitter (no response from Bloomsbury yet, I will let you guys know if I get one). I'm going to list the pros and cons of boycotting Bloomsbury to help people understand why it's good AND bad. I'll also post my own suggestions. Then I want you guys to leave comments telling me what YOU are going to do and leaving the rest of the blogging community suggestions. I'll go through them and update this post constantly.

I will NOT tolerate any name calling or singling out any blogger in a negative way. It defeats the purpose and hurts potential allies. There's no need for that. Express your opinion, respectfully and without using names (unless you want to give good attention to a blogger). However, don't comment asking "what's the big deal" or tell me to leave it alone. Well you can, but I'll ignore the comment because honestly, that's ignorant. If you want to know why it's a big deal, read my letter and other people's blog posts and comments.

The problem: The same publishing company, Bloomsbury is whitewashing covers. First Liar, now Magic Under Glass. Both about POC, both received covers with white models on them (Liar's cover was changed). The deeper issue here is why does Bloomsbury think this is ok? And how will we change their minds?

Pro Boycott Bloomsbury: A great post in favor of a Bloomsbury boycott is at Black Eyed Susan's: Starting MLK Day With a Protest.


Boycotting does work. Best example: MLK's bus boycott. Enough said. Money talks and if Bloomsbury sees their sales dropping, I think they will get the memo. They will know why because people will have been blogging/emailing/writing and complaining about their whitewashing ways. If they see that people are disappointed in them whitewashing book covers and sending the message that books about POC are not important, they will have to change their ways because they want to make money.

From Eva at A Striped Armchair: I don't read/buy YA books, so my opinion on the boycott is more theoretical than actual. But I think boycotting all Bloomsbury books will send a message across. And obviously, they didn't get the message after Liar. So more dramatic action is needed. It's sad that the authors are going to be hurt as well. But Bloomsbury needs a clearer message.

I've sent them an e-mail, and I'm also planning on my e-mailing my public library system. It has a lot of teen outreach programs, and I'm wondering if they'd be interested in coordinating a protest campaign. I live in a pretty white city, but I'm hoping for the best!



Cons: It hurts the author and all the authors after him or her. If we boycott Bloomsbury and they see that Magic Under Glass (or any other book about a poc that has been whitewashed) isn't selling well, they will most likely drop the author. I don't want that to happen (and you shouldn't either) because if the author has actually written about a POC we should support them and show that yes money talks and we will buy books about POC even if we are not POC ourselves because we want a GOOD story and it doesn't have to be about a white person to be a good story. Furthermore, if Bloomsbury sees that a book about a poc is not selling, they very well may decide that publishing books about poc is a waste of time (although they have few to begin with) and stop publishing them all together. And then we'll be even worse off.

Donna at Bites says: I absolutely refuse to boycott as it would have such an adverse affect on authors with back and front lists with Bloomsbury. There's no need to punish them when they're not at fault.

I think the best course of action are letter-writing campaigns, flooding inboxes and voicemail boxes, and just making sure voices are heard. Support authors but let the publisher know they need to change their tactics. It's a sticky situation and while boycotting does work, it'll hurt more than the publisher.


My Suggestions
1. Email or write a letter to Bloomsbury! (preferably email because it's faster)

2. Blog about it! To find excerpts and links to other blog posts about whitewashing and Bloomsbury failures go here

3. Go buy a book about a poc. And make a commitment to include more books about poc on your blog or if you don't have a blog, just diversify your reading pile. No excuses about not being able to find any books about poc. You guys have Google and a bunch of other resources (including me, Color Online, Tu Publishing, theHappyNappyBookseller, White Readers Meet Black Authors, Crazy Quilts, Gal Novelty and Fledgling). If you only blog about a specific genre and you need some suggestions for books about poc then feel free to leave me a comment or email me, I'd be happy to give suggestions, I know how hard it can be to find poc books in historical fiction or sci fi/fantasy (just two big examples). If you don't have the money to buy a book right now (believe me I understand with this economy every penny counts) then go to your library. If they have nothing, talk to the librarians, ask for books about POC. Usually if you express interest in a book they will try and get it.

5. Join the POC Reading Challenge Right now. Pam at bookalicio.us started this in response to whitewashed covers. That is so huge and beyond amazing! Thank you Pam (I wish I knew who you were =/ Anyone know?)

6. Reach out to potential allies like Ursula Le Guin who writes about POC and constantly got covers with white people on them. Read her awesome post here about her whitewashed covers and how her books were whitewashed on TV as well. Then write her letter asking her to speak out. She doesn't accept emails, I'll be writing a letter asap. I'm really sad that I've never read her books, must remedy that! Thank you to Cara at Ooh..Books! for this idea.

7. Sign a petition! I'll Buy the Book says Dear Publishing Houses,

We appreciate your work and the selection of great books you provide us with.
We do not pick books based on the color of skin on the cover. We love books for their story; so if the main character is Asian, Hispanic, African-American, gay or overweight, and is accurately represented on the cover, fear not. If we love the story, we’ll certainly buy the book!

-Covers everyone. It's short, sweet and to the point! Please, please sign :)

And for those of you who went to the Bloomsbury booth at ALA Midwinter and expressed your feelings, THANK YOU! To those of you who have blogged and emailed and wrote letters and left comments and screamed yourself hoarse, THANK YOU!

These are just quick thoughts and I really want to hear your own ideas. I'm trying to respond to emails and update posts as fast as I can, but bear with me :)

21 comments:

  1. Ari, while this is an important issue, it is but one of many important issues. I hope you're taking care of yourself, keeping up with your school work and spending time with your loved ones. If not, you will burn yourself out. I'm sure your parents are very proud of you, in addition to many of us.

    That being said, though the technology has changed, the civil rights movement was a combination of the very things you mentioned. We may not all agree on the method to achieve the desired resolution, but at least doing something can help. And we cannot shut out those willing to help, those who may not know the history of why the book cover issue is of importance to EVERYONE. There was a time when women had to write novels under male pen names. There was a time when Irish and Italian and Polish immigrants faced, in some form what we continue to face. If people don't understand, we must educate them. We look to build bridges, not destroy them. May god bless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. *blushes* I'm glad you consider my blog as a resource, though I haven't been blogging about books that exclusively feature POC protagonists, like yours. (Which reminds me, I don't think I ever remind you of how AWESOME your blog is, so I'll say it now: AWESOME BLOG. 8D) I do, however, believe that reading books with a diverse cast and supporting POC writers is very, very important and do my best to seek them out and promote them. Which reminds me! A lot of the POC titles I've talked about or read, I would have never known about them if it weren't for 50books_poc, an EXCELLENT resource if anyone wants to use it. =D

    As for boycott, yes I will boycott Bloomsbury, but I will not limit my boycott to simply not buying MUG or books that whitewash their protagonists; I won't be buying any books from Bloomsbury, period, until I see sufficient evidence that they are willing to take action to STOP whitewashing their covers. The only books I'll continue recommending by Bloomsbury are the ones that *do* have POC faces on the cover, such as Liar or the paperback version of Book of a Thousand Days (The Hardback didn't show a face, and while the cover wasn't whitewashed, there were problematic elements to that cover, that I won't discuss here because it isn't relevant to the topic at hand.) Otherwise, if there are Bloomsbury titles I want to read, I will look for them in my library or second hand bookstore.

    Now, as for actions taken, I've emailed Bloomsbury, blogged about this, and will continue my practice in seeking out POC titles and POC authors. I've also contacted coffeeandink, a lovely blogger predominant on livejournal and dreamwidth, about volunteering and helping her with her proposed project back in the Summer of 2009 Open Source Book Re-Covery Project. I thought, back when this project was proposed, and still now, that it's a highly innovative idea, and I'm sick of sitting around being angry every time I come across whitewashed covers. This project, if it takes flight, would allow for action that ISN'T always just reactionary. She has contacted me back and we are working out the tasks I can help out with for this project, and hopefully we'll bring this project to life, knock on wood. I also plan on talking with my friend who works at the library part-time about this, and... well, we'll see how that turns out. =D

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ari,

    I just want to take a minute to really, truly commend you for your posts, your maturity, and your responses to this most unpleasant situation. I hope that you realize how proud you should be of yourself.

    I don't have any answers, but I will continue to try and read more diversely.

    Looking forward to many more of your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gurl, can you let an old gal get her post up first, just once? LOL

    I love and respect you. You are why I do what I do.

    Now if you'll excuse me I have a post to write and drop me an email. I need your help.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I saw Justine Larbalestier posted part of your Bloomsbury letter on her blog! You're getting the word out! That's awesome!

    http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2010/01/19/race-representation/

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you for posting this - particularly the link to contact Bloomsbury. I've emailed them and I hope others do too!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, I'm a children's book buyer at an independent bookstore. I support boycotting Bloomsbury. The publishing industry is tottering around from lack of money. Hit 'em where it hurts. Write to them, tell them why. But boycotting Bloomsbury isn't enough. We need to tell all the major publishers what we DO want to see. We need to commend them for the good books that they have published and tell them we want more like them. We need to be very specific and then follow it up with our wallets. Buyers need to take more of a stand and reviewers need to learn more about the structure & functioning of the publishing industry.

    I regularly refuse to carry books that whitewash their characters and otherwise promote oppression of any variety. I'm considering refusing to buy any front list titles from Bloomsbury (and possibly their parent company, Macmillan) at all this season. (Unfortunately, as always, this is a complicated decision with potential for backlash & damage to my store, and the decision is not solely mine, so that's why I say I'm still considering it).

    In any case, I have a rather lengthy post up over at my blog about the pervasiveness of whitewashing, what's to be done in this situation, and why whitewashing is really only the beginning of racial problems in YA/kiddie lit. Check it out if you're interested, tell me what you think: http://schoolforactivists.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  9. The most thoughtful, thorough description I've seen on Bloomsbury's whitewashing. Thanks for pointing out the pros and cons of each option and keeping us all informed.

    ReplyDelete
  10. c_canadensis.livejournal.comJanuary 20, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    Just wondering, how will this petition be brought to the attention of Bloomsbury & other publishers? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree with you about the boycott issue, Ari, and appreciate your nuanced way of looking at it. As an author I can vouch for the fact that no matter who messes up at the publishing house, the author is always the one who bears the brunt of the failure. If the book sells below expectations, the chains don't order the author's next book, and s/he is often dropped by the publisher. Once dropped and with a bad sales history, it's nearly impossible for the author to get back onto the career ladder.

    One positive strategy is to support publishers that don't whitewash people of color. Among other things, that includes actively promoting the work of small presses such as Just Us Books--a proud publisher of children's and (now) YA books by and about Black people.

    And I don't think Bloomsbury is an imprint of Macmillan Children's Books but a separate company. However, my information may be out of date. Does anyone else know?

    ReplyDelete
  12. You're an incredible young woman Ari. I'm sure you get tired of everyone gushing over you, but it has to be done. :)
    That being said, I love your ideas and just wanted to make it known that a boycott page has been posted to facebook for those interested. And, yes, let's please keep this whole protest respectful however one chooses to respond. So many problems have gone unresolved because of discord.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh yes, the link to the boycott page on fb.
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Bloomsbury/262734998127

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great post, thanks. As Ah Yuan mentions, the Livejournal Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge aims high, but no one minds if people read less than 50 books a year, and we have an enormous resource in our past reviews. Any kind of book you want, we've got one by a writer of color. C'mon over!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I absolutely refuse to boycott as it would have such an adverse affect on authors with back and front lists with Bloomsbury. There's no need to punish them when they're not at fault.

    I think the best course of action are letter-writing campaigns, flooding inboxes and voicemail boxes, and just making sure voices are heard. Support authors but let the publisher know they need to change their tactics. It's a sticky situation and while boycotting does work, it'll hurt more than the publisher.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I don't read/buy YA books, so my opinion on the boycott is more theoretical than actual. But I think boycotting all Bloomsbury books will send a message across. And obviously, they didn't get the message after Liar. So more dramatic action is needed. It's sad that the authors are going to be hurt as well. But Bloomsbury needs a clearer message.

    I've sent them an e-mail, and I'm also planning on my e-mailing my public library system. It has a lot of teen outreach programs, and I'm wondering if they'd be interested in coordinating a protest campaign. I live in a pretty white city, but I'm hoping for the best!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've chosen to 1) boycott Bloomsbury USA 2) blog about the issue 3) buy, read, and review more books by POC authors and with POC characters 4) sign the petition.

    Ari, I commend you for the really classy way you have handled this entire issue.

    Tarie

    ReplyDelete
  18. I just want to draw your attention to Colleen's post which has a link to the author's response now:

    http://www.chasingray.com/archives/2010/01/authors_response_to_cover_cont.html

    I do so wish she'd say how she views her character's skin colour now, I do begin to wonder if you're idea that her idea of a brown skinned character is different from yours isn't right.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hey Ari, have you not heard? Bloomsbury is changing their tune!

    The cover will be changed

    Thanks fo Polly over at Dear Author for the link and inf:

    http://www.bloomsburykids.com/books/catalog/magic_under_glass_hc_306

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sorry, that should read,
    Thanks to Polly over at Dear Author for the link and information:

    Bloomsbury has announced the cover of Magic Under Glass will be changed

    http://www.bloomsburykids.com/books/catalog/magic_under_glass_hc_306

    ReplyDelete
  21. THANK YOU ARI!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you for speaking out so strongly and so well.

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you!! Thank you for sharing :) And don't be Anon, I try to always reply back and I like to know who I'm replying to ;)