I'm not going to go into a summary of this book. It sounded decent but I probably wouldn't have read it. I would have read it however if I had known the main character, Nimira was dark-skinned I would have read it since I review YA books about poc. But wait! Look at the cover. Hmmm does the model look dark skinned to you? I think not. And you know what? This cover is really pretty, I like it a lot. The dress/corset of the model, the glass, it's very elegant and it screams historical fantasy (to me, which I love). If it had had a dark skinned model on the cover I would have been so excited that I would just picked it up right away! I'm so disappointed, I'm beyond furious, I can't even type. You know why this especially angers me?
1)The publisher of this book is Bloomsbury. You may be thinking that name sounds familiar? Ah yes, they are the publisher of Liar by Justine Larbalestier. Remember they put a white girl on the US cover when the book was about a Black girl? Justine blogged about it here and I blogged about it here After enough people grew outraged (and it really helped that Justine is so cool and was so against her US cover), Bloomsbury bowed to public demands and changed their cover. And Liar is a great book that deserved a great cover, read my review
2) WHERE IS ALL THE OUTRAGE?? I've read at least 3-4 book reviews of this book and none of these reviews said anything. Except Laura at Bib-Laura-graphy Bravo Laura! (Other bloggers may have as well, I just found Laura's blog when I Googled Magic Under Glass cover controversy, if you have blogged about it, let me know and bravo to you!). I'm disappointed that my fellow teen book bloggers didn't say anything about the cover. As I recall, not many said anything about the cover of Liar either.
Please understand, this is in no way an attack on the author. For all I know, Ms. Dolamore could have said something to Bloomsbury about the cover and expressed her dissatisfaction. And I don't want to hurt her/her book, but I personally, can not buy this book while it has this cover. I'll still read it and review it, but I won't support a publishing company that has once again put a white model on the cover when the main character is described as dark-skinned.
I'm done with Bloomsbury USA. I'll get one of their books from the library, but I will NOT buy a book from them. Or any other publishing house that does this. Join me.
So what can we do? I'll be updating this post constantly once I've calmed down and can I really think. For now, I would say:
1) BLOG about it
2) Email the Bloomsbury Kids staff (I don't know who to specifically email so I would just go with the general email address)
3) If you're going to ALA Midwinter, stop by Bloomsbury's booth and POLITELY give them a piece of your mind.
4) Go out and buy a book about a poc. Or if you really can't afford to do that, go to your library and get books about poc. If they don't have any, talk to the librarians.
Also, Zetta makes a good point in the comments. She left me a link to the author's sketches of her characters from Magic Under Glass. Nimira doesn't look dark-skinned in her sketches either, seems to me the author does have a different view of dark-skinned than I or perhaps she didn't add any color to the faces of her characters because she wanted the reader to be able to imagine them as whatever color they wished?
ETA: Bad statement, I apologize. The book trailer clears this up.
Leave me a comment with your thoughts and what you think we should do. Enough is enough. If you haven't yet, you MUST read this post by Colleen at Chasing Ray about Demanding Diversity in Publishing. Right before Martin Luther King Jr. Day too, it's a shame and this is definitely NOT his dream.
The Responses (this will be a list of all the blog links I find/are left here in the comments ). Please visit the posts and leave comments encouraging the bloggers for speaking out.
1. Bookish Blather: Racefail on Magic Under Glass. Excellent post and I'm so glad Angela will be joining in and helping to make some noise when the publishing industry changes skin color for a cover. "So while I hold Bloomsbury highly accountable for this cover, I also have to say that the blogosphere seems to have fallen down on the job a little bit as well. We can take a stand and start making noise now so that racefail like this becomes rare, rather than an all too common occurrence." Agreed!
2. Black-Eyed Susan's: No Magic for Bloomsbury:Whitewashing, Business as Usual-Great post that really expresses how angry I feel in a way that makes more sense than whatever I say :) "Clearly Bloomsbury doesn't take us too seriously. Obviously they think teen bloggers are too shallow and fickle to call them out. I am sick of the excuses and head plunking in the sand. Teens, particularly you teen girls, stop taking the disrespect. Stop allowing the publishing industry to treat you like silly little girls who gush and fantasize over one model of beauty. You have no problem telling adults otherwise when they are wrong in what they think about you so why do you accept them selling you a stick figure with perfect skin, gorgeous hair and white skin? Whitewashing is racist. It says no one is interested in any character other than the white standard. It says we do not value diversity. It says POC at best can be a sidekick. POC can earn the publisher money but we cannot represent them.Yes, stop allowing the disrespect because poc can represent! Show publishers that you will buy books about poc!
3) Book Covers that Lie, Yet Again: I will definitely be trying harder to pay attention to the book covers of the books I read this year. I said I would in the original post about “Liar”, but I know I haven’t been doing as much as I should have been. It’s easy to put up a blog post commenting on how you don’t like something or wish something was different. But actually doing something about it takes effort. I promise to try harder this year. If something isn’t right I’m going to say something about it. After I post this I’m going to email Bloomsbury and let them know that I’m bothered by the cover. Hooray for Jen!
4. Good Books & Good Wine's Cover Controversy?! -I wonder if the message sent is oh, a book featuring a dark-skinned character would never sell, because white people don't want to buy books with dark people on the cover. Therefore, we don't value non-white people as much as white people. Personally, I think that's stupid. I think we need to wake up and smell the coffee and realize it's 2010, characters come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. Diversity is definitely not a bad thing, and one's reading life can be so enriched with diversity! I know I'm not being very eloquent right now, but damn if I'm not angry that Bloomsbury seems to think I wouldn't buy a book with a girl on the cover who is a different color from me. That's messed up. Why would they assume white people don't care to read about people of color? Do they honestly think I don't read to learn about people with different life experiences with me?Or that I only want to read about people who are the exact same as me? Fuck that noise. I want diversity in my life- Amazing April!
6. Abby the Librarian's More whitewashing, Just in time for MLK Day And while I agree with all that and Bloomsbury really should have learned their lesson, I can't help but think that this is still all a symptom. Why is Bloomsbury publishing this book with this cover? Because they think it will sell more copies.
We vote every day with our credit cards and we need to be the change we want to see. And while I agree with all that and Bloomsbury really should have learned their lesson, I can't help but think that this is still all a symptom. Why is Bloomsbury publishing this book with this cover? Because they think it will sell more copies. We vote every day with our credit cards and we need to be the change we want to see. I'm not suggesting that we boycott a particular publisher or author. I hate that this controversy might adversely affect the sales of a debut author, especially since I know that oftentimes authors have little-to-no say about their covers. What I'm trying to say is that if we, as a community of readers, PURCHASE BOOKS by and about people of color, that is a surefire way to get publishers to publish books by and about people of color. We vote with our credit cards. I'm not urging you to vote against any particular titles, publishers, or book covers. I'm simply urging you to vote for books that feature people of color if you are, in fact, as outraged by this cover controversy as you claim to be
Love it Abby!
7. Bookshop's New Year's Resolution #7: Stop Buying YA from Bloomsbury: Having spent too much money last year on less-than-stellar YA debuts, I resolved for 2010 to buy fewer debuts unless I had reason to be really excited about them. The first exception to the rule was Jaclyn Dolamore's Magic Under Glass. I have been looking forward to reading this book for months.
This week I picked up my copy. And I learned that the heroine of the novel was from the Far East, had dark skin, and looked nothing at all like the white model on the cover of the book I bought.
My much-anticipated first YA reading experience of 2010 has been ruined by a disgusting example of Racefail from a publisher that really, really should have learned its lesson when this happened last summer. The people who were outraged over Liar were not minor inconveniences at whom you could wave a new cover until we went away. We learned the lesson of Liar, it seems, far better than you did.
This is the last book I will be buying from Bloomsbury Kids. As a publisher you have now proven to me that you do not respect the characters or the cultures I most want to read about. Bloomsbury does not deserve my money.
I will also strongly encourage the many YA fans and up-and-coming writers in my community not to submit their books to Bloomsbury. Instead I will encourage them to submit their novels to a publisher who wants more chromatic characters on their debut covers, not one who wants to erase the precious few we already have. A letter to Bloomsbury from Aja, one of the original bloggers to blog about this. Aja you rock my socks and thanks for posting about this and sharing your email!
8. Charlotte's Library Cover of Magic Under Glass: I remember thinking how glad I was that at least they had not made Nimira into an overly romanticised example of the "exotic other" (which was something that Dolamore managed to avoid in her book, but which I was a bit nervous about).
I wish I had mentioned this in my comments about the book. I do not think this is as catastrophic a race fail as the cover of Liar, but I am sorry that Bloomsbury didn't take advantage of the opportunity provided by the story to show a beautiful girl who actually is "dark." And I'm sorry I failed to raise the issue in my review, and with my silence indicated acceptance of this white-washing. Visit Charlotte's post to see a list of all the pages where Nimira is described as dark-skinned. Thanks for this post :)
9. Book Gazing: Bloomsbury-Any chance you can get smarter? It all comes back to the vicious cycle surrounding diversity. People who don’t like ‘gritty’ books won’t start buying more books with black characters on the cover until they see a more diverse field of books being published with black characters on the cover. Even if they’re out there (and they are) the majority of people don’t believe there are light hearted books featuring black characters and that’s something the publishing industry has to take responsibility for, as they’ve reinforced the image of black writing as gritty, hard hitting and harrowing (not bad things to be called, but they’re now preventing a whole market of readers who like lighter books from buying anything even remotely related to race (see Susan’s post for a better idea of this kind of thing). Publishers won’t start publishing more of these kind of books with black characters on the cover until people start buying the current books with black characters on the front and until they see the money they’re not likely to take a risk because this is capitalism my friends with all its flaws and joys. No one is taking a risk until they see the cash. Brillant post Jodie!
10. Storywings: My Two Cents: Magic Under Glass
This is not about the accuracy of covers on books.
It’s not about blonde when the character is brunette, it’s not about the wrong length hair, or the wrong colour dress, it’s not even about thin for fat. Yes, that is another damaging representation, but that is another conversation, which only serves to derail this conversation.
The one about race and representation.
Sticking a white girl on the cover of a book about a brown girl is not merely inaccurate, it is part of a long history of marginalisaton and misrepresentation. Publisher don’t randomly pick white models. It happens within a context of racism. And that's what it's all about =)
16. I understand Susan's desire to boycott Bloomsbury and her collective frustration. I really do. What concerns me is that there are authors at Bloomsbury who have beans to do with this, authors who have written books about dolphins or bugs or whatever and race has never been an issue for their books. So is it fair to affect them? I don't think so.
17. Having said that, I am sick and tired of books about kids with color that have a Caucasian on the cover. Why does this matter? Because you are saying that they are not good enough to be on the cover. You are saying you have to hide the dark skinned protagonist behind a light skinned one. You are saying that dark skin is something to be ashamed of.
18. Yes, you are saying all of that. Seriously, read all her points. Spot On!
13. Eva at a Striped Armchair: Reading in Color (RiC note: not about me! haha) : Yep, I had to try harder, especially at the beginning. I had to be more conscious of the books I was choosing to read (although now it’s become a habit). And I definitely didn’t love every POC book I read. But then, I don’t love every white author I try either. And here’s the thing…after several months of changing my reading, I’ve barely scratched the surface of all of the wonderful POC literature out there.
In fact, I fully intend to read this way for the rest of my life. And yes, I do plan to keep track, and to hold myself to that firm ratio. At least, until it becomes second nature (a few years ago, I did the same thing when I noticed I had read almost all male authors that year…now, at least half the books I read are by women, and I don’t have to pay attention to it). I’m willing to sacrifice a little of my reading spontaneity and whims (although really, not that much) in order to make sure that I’m aware of more viewpoints. It’s important to me in principle, and just as importantly, it has improved my reading tremendously! It’s funny what being aware of something does though…because in the last few months, the white washing of the publishing industry seems so much more obvious. Oh, and the white washing of the book blogosphere. Thank you Eva for being so honest and right on!
14. School for Activists: Whitewashing in the Publishing Industry: A response to Bloomsbury Fail It's not enough to call for black kids to be on the covers of kids books. We need to call for more books about kids of color that are not just about oppression. We need to call for fantasy/mystery/scifi/romance/genre fiction about kids of color who get to have some fun. We need to call for major mainstream publishing houses to start publishing such books. And we can't let them get away with sticking the lightest-skinned "ethnic-looking" person they can find on the cover when we make a fuss. I mean, come on, the girl on the new cover of Liar? She could be black, sure. But it's not super immediately clear is it? You're not wrong if you think that this was done on purpose.
It is RARE that I see dark-skinned unambiguously Not White kids of color portrayed anywhere in kids books (Kadir Nelson is an awesome exception to this) -- from the covers of YA books to the illustrations in picture books, most kids of color are depicted as extremely light skinned. Most black kids (especially the girls) are also depicted with straight hair. Not that light-skinned straight haired people of color shouldn't be depicted anywhere, but the huge preponderance of them in kiddie/YA literature about kids of color is motivated by racism. Publishers MUST be called out on this, and not just by a few kids buyers sitting down with their rep and saying so. Buyers need to refuse to buy any frontlist titles from Bloomsbury at all this season. Those of us who see a problem must unambiguously say so
Whoo hoo thank you for speaking out DontBoxSarah, this post is great! And from an interesting perspective of a book buyer for a bookstore who will boycott.
15. Multiculturalism Rocks! I Have A Dream: Feeding from Martin Luther King, Jr. words and vision, I dream that one day our actions will match our words; that one day when we tell our children that we do not believe in discrimination or in double standards, they will also witness it through the books that we read together; that one day reality will exceed the dream: we will gather not to denounce a cliché, a book cover misrepresentation or a ban on gay, multicultural or children books dealing with edgy issues, but that we will gather to celebrate joy, respect and diversity in all its forms.
Brightside of all this? The discussion and I've discovered some new blogs! Please read my new post as well, An Open Letter to Bloomsbury.
Sign this petition stating that you will buy a book with a person of color on it or a GLBT teen or disabled or overweight if they are accurately represented on the cover.