It occurs to me that Bloomsbury, while certainly noticing the controversy over the Liar cover, could also dismiss it as the opinions of a few bloggers (who, whether we like or not always seem to be dismissed as "extremist"). So what if there are a ton of responses? What if we have them all nicely organized in one spot so you can't help but see the dozens (and dozens and dozens?) of blog posts that this cover choice has spawned?
Part of my impetus for collecting these links is that on several posts (including Justine's) it has come up that authors have no input on cover choice. Okay, we get that. So maybe this is a chance to show publishers that they should listen to the damn author every now and again because just maybe the editors are not always right.
You send me urls and I'll run links and quotes right here. (And you can read my thoughts on the whole thing in my recent post.) Then they can see how frustrated we are by this appalling choice.
Trisha at the YA YA YAs has conducted an impressive survey of Asian Americans on teen covers: "My first reaction to the Liar cover controversy: That's shameful. An eye-catching cover, to be sure, but to use the picture of a white girl who blatantly does not match the narrator's description at all? So. Wrong. Even more so now that I've had a chance to read the book.
My second reaction to the Liar cover controversy: Well, hell, it's not as if it's unusual for Asian-American characters to have their race obscured on book covers. Granted, not whitewashed like this, but hidden nevertheless. This might sound really callous and I sincerely don't mean to diminish the importance of the original discussion or of Bloomsbury's deplorable actions, but there you go."
This week's Diversity Roll Call challenge included the Liar cover controversy. Worducopia has the round-up and links to multiple posts on the subject including Nymeth at things mean alot: "And just so we don't forget that what we're talking about here is making real human beings feel like they don't matter because they're not white, I wanted to highlight Tarie's comment:
When I first heard about a publisher using a White girl on the cover of a book with a Black main character, for a minute I felt small, very small, because I am not White.
This matters. We're not talking about some abstract decision with no real impact; we're talking about telling non-white teens (and adults) they're not good enough to be on the cover of a book. I have always believed that books are important, and this goes hand in hand with believing that publishing decisions should be socially responsible. Stories have consequences, and so do book covers. Heather, Vasilly, me, and a couple of other bloggers were campaigning on Twitter to get The Book Depository to order the Australian edition of Liar; hopefully they will and we'll all be able to protest the cover and still support the author and read what sounds like an amazing book."
Sarah Rettger at Archimedes Forgets: "It's easy to read about the 1960 Olympics and wonder how much has really changed when the Carl Brandon Society still has to issue open letters like this. It's easy to say the Liar fiasco isn't really a surprise.
But what comes next?
I don't do the buying at my store, and I don't have much influence with the buyers. (I don't even buy all that many books myself, thanks to the whole working-at-a-bookstore thing.)
I can't be a writer of color myself, but I can make a conscious effort to bring attention to writers of color here. I was a Latin American studies major; it's not like I have a shortage of works to draw from.
I can pay attention to the conversation, and take part.
And then we'll see what comes next."
Gwenda weighs in on a sub-controversy to the controversy: "The vast majority of covers that end up with persons of color on them tend to be smaller, more literary works, many of which are directly about racial issues. I am NOT claiming there is anything wrong with that; many of my favorite books fall into such a category. Such books are important and necessary and awesome. But I think we can all look at the books that become big commercial hits--many of which, especially in YA and children's are still wonderful, literary books--and see that there's a real under-representation of minority characters in them. And my own beloved fantasy and science fiction isn't an exception.
The only way I know how to approach this issue is from a writer's perspective. If the characters aren't in the work in the first place, the cover doesn't have to be whitewashed as Justine's was. (Not that covers have to be representative of characters--I prefer it when they aren't.) Maybe it would make books harder to sell to include more diversity in them, but I'm not convinced that's true. I look at characters like Hassan in John Green's An Abundance of Katherines--one of my favorite characters in recent YA history, and a character I'd definitely read a whole book about. I look at Micah in Liar and I think, YES, WE NEED MORE OF THAT.
We need more stories that are by their nature commercial, popular and accessible, and that include characters that are not white.
I do not want to live in a literary world where only white characters can save the world. "
Melissa at Kidliterate: "Why arenâ€™t there more books like CORDUROY, where the little girl just happens to be black and thatâ€™s just that? She just IS. Itâ€™s not part of the story. Itâ€™s not a slave narrative or a book about surviving a crack house or a book where every other character is also black. Itâ€™s a sweet book about a little bear and the girl who takes him home, and she isnâ€™t white, and you know what? White people have been just fine with that since 1968. White people have also been purchasing the work of Mr. Ezra Jack Keats for decades, and oh look - whatâ€™s that on THE SNOWY DAY? A little black boy! When GRACE FOR PRESIDENT came out a couple of years ago, I was so happy to see that Grace was black and her classmates were a motley assortment of races. And guess what? We sold a whole lot of copies of that book because it was a good book and good books sell. Crap doesnâ€™t sell no matter whoâ€™s on the cover.
And if there arenâ€™t covers with black faces on them, then of course they donâ€™t sell. But there arenâ€™t any on covers because those covers donâ€™t sell (supposedly). And around and around and around we go.
I donâ€™t know what to do about this, except to start speaking up. Loudly. Persistently. Often. Speak up until Iâ€™m heard. Until weâ€™re heard. Iâ€™ve been sleeping for too long, and Iâ€™m ready to help change this. I donâ€™t know if I can, but I know I canâ€™t look past it for another minute."
Carol Rasco from RIF: "After reading Susanâ€™s post on Color Online I realized I personally must commit to do more on this blog regarding books featuring people who are not mirrors of me and that I must do so in a conscious, planned manner. I am reviewing my schedule of Monday Cover Stories, consciously thinking about the issue as I read for Friday WEEKâ€™S END selections, and continuing a WEDNESDAY WINDOW feature recently added where the books I discuss will be a â€œwindowâ€ for me, a white person born and raised in the southern part of the United States. I look forward to a continued dialogue with all concerned and hope your suggestions/questions for RIF will be shared with me."
KC Clyburn: "I knew that whitewashing occured in the publishing ndustry, but something about this jarred me. This idea that books with black people on the covers wonâ€™t sell is disheartening at worst and fucking maddening at best.
I donâ€™t like walking into bookstores and seeing the â€œUrban Fictionâ€ section. I hate the term â€œurbanâ€ in generalâ€“are you telling me white people donâ€™t live in work in â€œurbanâ€ areas? Why is the definition of urban anyway? Seeing books written by African-American people about African-American people seperated from the rest of the fiction and literature seems to mean to me â€œthis is the lesser stuff. This is the stuff thatâ€™s not worthy of being in with the other books. Only black people read these books,â€ and I hate it even more when I see YA shoved into these sections, where theyâ€™ll likely never be found by actual young adults."
Steph at Reviewer X: "A while later, Lenore and I ran into Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier at the Bloomsbury booth. It was after BEA had closed for the day and we were just roaming. No other fans were nearby, so we got to speak to them a bit more. I asked Justine for some more of her business cards with both the Aussie and the American cover of Liar and casually asked what she thought of the cover.
Very frankly, she said, "I think it's a beautiful cover and that Bloomsbury did a wonderful job of making it eye-catching. But my protagonist isn't white, so this isn't reflective of the book I wrote. This is why I like the Australian cover more. Nevertheless, they decided to go with this cover in the US.'"
Shalonda writes on her blog: "I applaud authors like Justine Larbalestier and Paul Volponi who showcase characters of diverse races. And while I admire Justine, I must say, "Shame, shame" to Bloomsbury for choosing not to put a Black girl on the cover of a book about a Black girl.
Bloomsbury's response was that they believed the character was lying about her race. I don't believe that at all. What? Are we back in the days of Imitation of Life? I understand that a compulsive liar would be an unreliable source for most things. But race? Come on!"
Author NK Jemisin: "Whitewashing â€” the fannish term for when fictional characters of color are depicted as white in cover art â€” has long been a problem in the book publishing industry. Its root is racism, of course: the pervasive belief that people of colorâ€™s stories arenâ€™t universal enough to play to white consumers. (Though white peopleâ€™s stories are deemed universal enough for everyone, hence the white cover figures.) We see this in other industries, as with the current fanrage over M. Night Shyamalanâ€™s live-action film adaptation of the fantasy cartoon â€œAvatar: The Last Airbenderâ€. The film version casts the heroic leads â€” for a series set in an all-Asian world â€” with Caucasian actors. The same thinking was behind the book industryâ€™s bizarre reticence to publish â€œblack fictionâ€ for years, except from those few authors who were embraced by white critics (e.g., Toni Morrison)â€¦ until black authors started self-publishing to bestselling numbers, which forced the industry to take notice. Even then, the underlying racist beliefs lingered. At the National Black Writers Conference (put on by the Center for Black Literature a few months back), I got to hear Octavia Butlerâ€™s agent relate the story of a publisher she met who still insisted, in the late 1990s, that black people didnâ€™t read."
At Southern Fried Chicas, Raine writes: "Yes, publishers are in the business of making money. And their claim that having African Americans on a cover means fewer sales is probably valid. Itâ€™s also self-fulfilling marketing, since so few of them DO have AA characters on covers. So whoâ€™s eventually going to be responsible for helping to change this?
Your average author has very little say in what goes on the cover.
Certain booksellers definitely make the situation worse with their policies of placing any book written by or showing a person of color in the African American section, regardless of genre (my own local Borders does this and refuses to change).
Publishers? And what are the chances theyâ€™d be eager to incite change at the cost of losing readers?"
At Fiction Groupie: "Seriously? I really have my mouth hanging open. What were they thinking? First of all, let me just say that Iâ€™m not a fan of faces on covers anyway. I hate when the cover tries to force me into an image of what the character looks like. Iâ€™d rather create my own image in my head. However, Iâ€™d be super pissed if I picked up a book and the cover image was completely unrelated to the book. Itâ€™s a betrayal to the author, to the character, and to the reader. Plus, there are so few YA books with protagonists of color to begin with, shouldnâ€™t they promoting that this is one? Craziness. "
Author Keren David: "YA writer Justine Larbalastier has written a book called Liar, about Micah a compulsive liar caught up in a murder (it sounds like a great book, by the way and I can't wait to read it) Micah describes herself as black with very short hair. But the US cover shows a white girl with long hair. It's very striking, but completely wrong - either the publishers have deliverately misled potential readers because they think they won't buy a book about a black girl. or they wish to imply that Micah is a totally unreliable narrator in every detail - a suggestion which affects the way you read the book."
At Trapdoor Books: "In my opinion, the publisher stepped over the line here, and maybe we will see an apology showing up on the net - similar to Amazonâ€™s backpedaling apology on deleting Orwellâ€™s titles. Ironic that the title of the book is Liar, eh? However, it does make a strong case for why small presses need to exist - to provide options for readers who donâ€™t want white-washed covers and content. I can see hundreds of niche publishers filling those topics that just donâ€™t fit into the mainstream publishing plans. So, while I feel bad for Ms. Larbalestier this might be a wakeup call for the industry. Even if that isnâ€™t the case, if I ever do this to an author - kill me. You have my permission."
Susan at Color Online (2nd post): "When most white readers get their fill of righteous outrage, I will still be black. I will still have to hunt for books that promote I really am here and I will likely still be a minority voice in the blogosphere actively promoting books with POC characters by POC writers."
Beth at Writing it Out: "In the end, I think the publisher just didn't think it mattered.
But they're wrong.
This kind of inherent racism, exclusionary tactics, an underlying belief that white is more marketable than color--that white is actually preferable to color... Seeing it, addressing it, and confronting it...
At Uncreated Conscience: "Let me be clear here: the cover is not arresting because the girl is white; the cover is arresting because of its composition, its starkness, and the dynamic lines of her criss-crossed hair. Would it have been just as arresting if the girl on the cover was black? Absolutely. So why isnâ€™t she?"
Pam at Mother Reader: "My point here is that they messed with the wrong book, because the whitewashed cover is changing the interpretation of the story, and thatâ€™s a problem. It looks like theyâ€™ve also messed with the wrong author, give her strength. And one can hope that theyâ€™ve messed with the wrong community of authors, bloggers, librarians, and readers who can argue for racial equality on our book covers."
From the discussion in the forum at Absolute Write: "The essay was very good, I agree. And I agree with everything else, ha.
I know that unless otherwise stated, authors don't get much say in cover selection, but this is insane. If a black person on the cover is so horrible, they could've easily taken a photograph with no person in it. I just can't wrap my head around the logic. The cover is nice, I must concede, but what kind of message are they sending to black rea-- wait! I forgot. Black people don't read. :P"
And also: "Bloomsbury's response to the whole thing was so infuriating, too. To imply that maybe the narrator IS lying about her race in the book, when the author has clearly stated that was never her intention, is overstepping the editorial line.
It does make me wonder, though. There was an African-American author not too long ago who complained when her publisher put a black model on the cover of her book...when the characters in the book weren't black. Her publisher basically said, "You're black, so you're writing a black book."
And pretty much nobody cared about that, even though the author was quite upset.
It's really sad, to me, that it takes something like this happening to a white author to get people to think about the inequalities in the publishing industry."
There are more than 50 comments thus far on that thread
Author Sara Zarr: "There is a lot of outrage, and I think for good reason. Though, some of the comments floating around the oâ€™sphere indicate a belief that the publisher is evil, bad, calculating, etc. Hereâ€™s what I think: itâ€™s not like editors and marketing people are monsters. I have met a lot of people in childrenâ€™s publishing over the last few years, and almost to a (wo)man, they are great, smart, hardworking, passionate people who wants to get books into readersâ€™ hands and to be able to keep doing that by staying in business. I think this was simply a bad decision symptomatic of a larger, mostly hidden problem that we need to talk about and itâ€™s good we are doing so. Being the clueless raised-in-diverse-and-liberal-SF white girl that I am, I had no idea, personally, about the belief that black people on covers donâ€™t sell (or inside picture books â€“ read E. Lockhartâ€™s post). Iâ€™ve always been a little naive about racism and racial bias. In the soil I grew out of, it didnâ€™t seem come up much."
Steph at Paged Media: "Book covers that portray non-white protagonists as white are nothing new. But because the black protagonist is a compulsive liar, this cover actually changes the way people are reading the story. Justine writes, â€œOne of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that itâ€™s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesnâ€™t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true.â€
Bloomsburyâ€™s publishing director comes back with â€˜we meant to do thatâ€™"
From matociquala's lj Throw Another Bear in the Canoe: "And no, really, authors don't have control over what goes on the covers of our books. Unfortunately. Because as Justine says, this is exclusionary and also kind of dumb, and like so much in our industry, smacks of Received And Unquestioned Wisdom that has gone unexamined since the 1930s.
It sounds like Justine gets more input than I do (as I would expect and is only fair, as she's a bigger "name") --I don't get to see preliminary sketches. Often I find out what my cover will look like when it goes up on Amazon.
What follows is a brief rant on my own frustration regarding this topic.
Of my published or nearly-published novels, nine (Hammered, Scardown, Worldwired, Blood & Iron, Whiskey & Water, Carnival, Undertow, All the Windwracked Stars, and The Sea thy Mistress) feature primary or secondary protagonists who are not white. Of those, exactly one (Carnival) has a character of color on the cover, and Michelangelo's face, while clearly bearing African features, is almost entirely obscured by a mask."
At YA Fabulous: "Please! Give me more of your delicious excuses as to why this decision wasnâ€™t filled with gross, slimy stuff covering the underside of a racist publishing system. I am all ears! Man, it is totally fine if feelings were hurt, or non-white people felt badly, or white allies felt angry, or the author was disappointed and let down. Itâ€™s all okay because it was a learning experience! People will learn and that makes all the bad feelings all right! Exceptâ€¦not the people who need to, apparently. What have you learned, Bloomsbury? Clearly nothing, because instead of reading â€œweâ€™re sorry for pretending that this book cover exists in a vacuum of perfect happy fun times race relationsâ€ I just read â€œit didnâ€™t work for everyoneâ€. Hell yeah! Pass the buck to the angry, disappointed people. It didnâ€™t work because we didnâ€™t get your ~~*amazing vision*~~."
Cory Doctorow at boingboing: "It's a rare author who gets final say in her cover, many don't get any say at all. I'm generally OK with this, since I figure the point of the cover is to convey to the reader, "this is this sort of book, and if you like this sort, you'll like this." And I figure that cover designers and art-directors who do hundreds of covers a year know, in a much more fine-grained way, what the psychology of covers is. It helps that Irene Gallo, Tor's art director who oversaw the covers of all my Tor books, is terrific, loves my work, and always does a good job, and that HarperCollins in the UK have also been kicking all kinds of ass on this score.
But Justine's right about this one, because, as she says, This cover did not happen in isolation."
Amelia at The Wren's Nest: "Publishers believed that a minstrelized Uncle Remus would sell better than a more authentic illustration.
Over 100 years later, the same problem persists in a big way. Novels featuring African Americans on the cover are usually promoted differently, and thus do not sell as well as novels with covers featuring white folks, perpetuating the issue. Frustrating."
TIFF at the Bargain Librarian: "When I read this book, I was bothered by the cover because I felt the main character was misrepresented. Not only is the main character African American, she is not pretty and can pass for a boy! Not so with the girl on the cover! It's bad enough to misrepresent the character in other ways, but changing the race on the cover of the book just seems wrong."
E. Lockhart writes at her blog: "Some of you know I write picture books under another name. It is in this realm of my writing life that I've come across the most disturbing ingrained and invisible censorship of non-white faces. I have requested or suggested artists who draw primarily African American characters for certain books of mine, because the stories were about multi-ethnic neighborhoods, or because the stories were universal and I think that readers proved with The Snowy Day in 1962 that if a story is good enough, and touches people's hearts, the whole world can embrace a child protagonist of any race.
And yet -- there are still not very many protagonists of color in American picture books, especially not in books where the kid is supposed to be "everykid." The way Peter is in The Snowy Day.
I loved these artists and wanted to see what they'd bring to these stories.And when I talked with editors about these artists who drew mainly non-white people, I was told that those artists were probably "too urban" for my stories. Or that those artists would limit sales. And in other words, No. (One of these artists went on to win multiple awards from the ALA, by the way.)
The editors could have just told me: that artist is too expensive. Or, that artist isn't to our taste. Or, that artist only works for another publishing house. But the editors actually felt comfy saying to me: too urban. Fewer sales in the middle of the country. As if that wasn't a deeply horrible thing to say, when if publishers are not going to be BRAVE, how are we going to have literature that changes people's lives and touches them deeply?"
At cassiphone's lj Velvet Threads: "In Publisher's Weekly, the publishing director of Bloomsbury, Melanie Cecka, defends the cover decision by saying: â€œThe entire premise of this book is about a compulsive liar... Of all the things youâ€™re going to choose to believe of her, youâ€™re going to choose to believe she was telling the truth about race?â€
So the publisher's defence is to suggest that the character is in fact not black. Larbalestier has made it publicly clear that this is not the case - but the publisher would like its potential audience to read the character's appearance and race out of the narrative, so that she matches the saleable white girl cover.
This floored me, because it's one thing to understand that authors have little power in how their books are presented and promoted (which let's face it, in most cases is understandable - writers know how to write, why not let sales and marketing do their jobs) but it's entirely another for a publisher to attempt to sell and market an entirely different book than the one they have printed."
Author Zetta Elliott: "So how do I find the right fit? And how do I ensure that people of color are involved in the production of my book? How do I make sure no idiot marketing director slaps a white girl on the cover of AWAM?!? Itâ€™s hard to imagine giving up all that controlâ€¦even though doing everything myself has been exhausting at times. I think I *would* be â€œchurlishâ€ (Larbalestierâ€™s term) if my publisher lost their mind and disrespected me and my characters that way. Iâ€™d talk about them like a dog to anyone whoâ€™d listen, and Iâ€™d tote around a copy of the original AWAM, with its prominent image of a dark-skinned black girl."
Sarah Miller at Reading, Writing, Musing: "But somewhere way down in a whole lot of those same white people, there's a latent feeling that non-whites are, well, just...not like us. To the extent that the notion of giving a white child a book with someone of color on the cover either makes them ill at ease or catches them by surprise entirely.
That's why I tend to straddle the fence when it comes to the idea that the whole black-covers-don't-sell theory is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It doesn't help that publishers feed into this phenomenon, and I'm sure not going to sit here and say Bloomsbury made a good decision with the cover of Liar. Of course, more black readers would buy more books if they saw their own likenesses on the front. (I once had a good, frank talk with a frustrated black mom on this very topic.) But as much as I'd like to see the end of white-washed covers, putting more black and brown faces on dust jackets probably isn't going to solve the real problem."
Young, Black, A Reader: "Why wouldn't you put an image similar to the way the main character describes herself on the cover of the book? I realize covers are important, I sometimes judge books by their covers, but most important is the actual summary of the book. I'm insulted that the publishing company (Bloomsbury) thought that a book with a black girl on it wouldn't sell as well as one with a white girl on it. "
C. K. Kelly Martin at all my little words: "I believe that with the current controversy over Justine Larbalestier's book, Bloomsbury will soon change their minds and ditch the white cover they'd planned for Liar. I think this controversy will also help deter publishers from white-washing books in the future. That maynot automatically make them sell better but I have to believe that change is cumulative, and that the more we consciously challenge our own ingrained attitudes, and the more judges who don't fit the white male mold sit on the Supreme Court, and the more black characters we see on book covers, that the less likely someone will be to call an eleven year old African-American girl 'trash' or think a talented doctor is somehow less than because of the colour of his or her skin or an extra X chromosome. "
artbroken on lj: "So you're a publishing house that wants to put out a YA novel about an African-American protagonist. Publishing wisdom is that African-American people on covers reduce sales. You could go with an abstract cover, but that could affect sales too. Solution? Do a cover with a white female protagonist, then claim this is somehow clever and metatextual rather than completely fucking racist.
I wish I was making this up."
Ben Peek's lj: "Well, isn't it interesting to see this cover being spun as a positive thing. A lot of good isn't going to come from this discussion, unless it is to force the publisher to change it. Otherwise, what is more likely to happen is that a lot of people won't buy Larbalestier's new novel because of the racism that has given birth to the white girl face staring at them.
Yes, I said racism.
Because racism has many forms, and this is one of them."
Sophie at I read, I write, I believe things: "Publishers Weekly published an article about the controversy today. One of the important things they note is that young readers in particular care a lot about whether or not the cover image matches the bookâ€™s description of the character. Teenagers and children have a lot of respect for the world an author creates, and having a mismatched cover is an insult to this world. Can you imagine a Harry Potter cover without Harryâ€™s trademark scar, glasses, and unruly black hair? Kids would riot."
Cheryl Morgan: "In her post Justine asks why it is OK for a music album to feature a black singer on the cover, but not OK for a book to feature a black character on the cover. Iâ€™m guessing that the mindset here is that it is now regarded as OK for white people to like â€œblackâ€ music (it didnâ€™t used to be), but that white people will draw the line at being asked to identify with a black character in a book. And when we are talking about fiction (as opposed to, say, history) the ability of the reader to identify with a central character in the book is regarded as key to sales."
Liz at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy: "When I read Liar, which I loved, I closed the book and looked at the cover, extremely puzzled. Twisting and turning to make it work, I wondered, well, is this another lie? Is Micah telling a lie about being black? I thought that didn't make sense, in terms of the story. Slightly more sense making was that the cover was itself the lie: "you think this is what I look like, but it isn't." Except it was the type of sense that made one's head hurt. Still, I didn't want to believe the obvious --
That a white girl was put on the cover of a book about a black girl because otherwise, it wouldn't sell in bookstores and it wouldn't be checked out in libraries. Larbalestier blogs about it in more detail at her blog: "The notion that â€œblack booksâ€ donâ€™t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing"; Publishers Weekly reports on the cover, with the publisher, Bloomsbury, saying they hoped that what I thought (more evidence that Micah is a liar!) was the universal reaction; and even GalleyCat posted about it.
Here's my first question: If Micah was white, would the publisher have said, "hey, let's put a black girl on on the cover to show Micah's a liar!"
I don't think so.
Here's my second question: What are we doing to disprove the idea that "black books don't sell"?
I am white; looking at most of the reviews I've done in 2009, you'll see mostly white covers. Should I try to review more books with main characters who aren't white? Yes. Is it sad that, despite numerous bloggers and commentators noting that blogs don't review enough books about people of color, that it's a story about a book cover that motivates me? Yes."
Tashi at Taste of Life writes: "Someone might ask, why would a white teen pick up a cover that's black, when it excludes them. I think people need to stop worrying about being excluded. When you look at a cover, you should see another teen girl, just like you. Why do you have to feel excluded because their skin is different from yours? There are far more ways in which we are alike."
Editorial Anonymous:"Well, I am appropriately stricken. And outraged, nauseous, flabbergasted... I wish I could say I can't imagine what they were thinking, but in fact I do have a guess. I just can't imagine why they thought no one would notice.
This is a very good book and an awesome author. But please, don't pay for Bloomsbury's book. Buy the Australian edition."
Alicia at the LibrariYAn: "So what's up with the cover? Is it racism? Did the publishers not want to put a black girl on the cover for fear of not selling enough books to their white customers? Or is the cover supposed to be what Micah really looks like, and her description in the book is just another of her lies? Or is it just that the cover was so awesome, the publisher decided they just had to go with it, content of the novel be damned."
The Brown Bookshelf: "Is this yet another step backward in the war to provide more diverse books for readers of all colors? Would a nappy headed character depicted on the cover be death to sales? Would it have only drawn the curiosity of readers of color? And if so, is that equivalent to death to sales as opposed to the coveted mainstream love?"
Jezebel: "So basically bookstores are acting like restaurants in the Jim Crow South, segregating "black covers" in a special section, or refusing to allow them at all. This may be causing presses like Bloomsbury to whitewash their covers, resulting in confusion and anger, at least among Larbalestier's readers."
Ghenet at All about them words: "I feel bad that Justine has had to deal with all of this talk about the cover, considering she had nothing to do with it. It makes me sad that some publishers think that books with black teens on them won't sell, and that some books with black teens on the covers end up shelved in different ("urban") sections of bookstores, where teens may not actually see them."
LibrariAnne: "My only issue with this book is the cover art. Obviously lying about everything is part of Micahâ€™s character, but the description of what she looks like in the book is radically different than the cover model. I think the designer had a nice idea (mouth covered with hair, obscuring the truth of whatever she says, etc.), but it doesnâ€™t work for me because it doesnâ€™t fit with the character at all. The Australian cover art is much better. "
Booklorn proves why the PW excuse doesn't work: "Another post on judging a book by its cover. This one from Justine Larbalestier on the US cover of her book Liar where the cover shows a white girl but the lead character is actually black. Confusing to the readers to say the least especially since the book is about a girl that lies and the cover suggests she is lying about at least one thing she isnâ€™t lying about."
Jacket Whys goes analytical: "With the discussion about Liar, I decided to do a very unscientific, informal roundup of whoâ€™s on the 2009 crop of book covers. I looked at about 775 childrenâ€™s and YA book covers for books that have been released or will be released this year. 80% of them had people on them. A full 25% of all book covers had white girls pictured on them, and 10% had white boys. Only 2% of the titles I looked at had African American boys or girls pictured on the covers â€“ a sad state of affairs. I can understand the outcry over the Liar cover."
Susan at Color Online: "What ambiguity? Is she serious? The biggest liar here is the publisher. They chose the cover to ensure white readers would pick it up and of course black readers already know not to expect black covers except on black urban or historical lit. I am appalled and insulted by Ceceka, the PR for Bloomsbury."
Author Laura McLaughlin: "The thinking among many people in sales and marketing is that â€œblack covers donâ€™t sell.â€ This easily extends to the even more pernicious truism: â€œblack books donâ€™t sell.â€ This then leads to the still more pernicious trend of segregating books by and about black people into the â€œurban fictionâ€ section of your local book store."
Audrey at The Almost Legendary Journal: "Teenage girls didn't know that they wanted an historical movie about a sinking ship until they saw Titanic.
Likewise, the assumption that teenagers or adults or any kind of reader won't want to read a book because the characters in it don't have their skin color, come from their cultural background, or live in their kind of environment, is LAZY at best and racist at worst.
If the publishing industry still designs covers and selects manuscripts on the basis of that assumption, then it is time to slap them upside the head and wake them up. Go not gently into the fight, bowing before the old guard for fear of being thrown out the front gates. Stand up with back tall and change our industry with your sword unsheathed."
And the tweets: "So disturbing ..."; "Sad, maddening, scary, surprising, moving post from @justinelavaworm on race & the LIAR cover"; "Been reading about 'Liar" cover controversy today. Just realized how much a cover does sway how I feel about a book. Kind of sad..."; "The white-washing of book jackets: @justinelavaworm on that Liar cover as a symptom of very nasty disease"; This should be required reading: @justinelavaworm on that Liar cover as a symptom of a very nasty disease"; "Bloggers angry w/Bloomsbury for putting a white girl on the Liar cover, a book about an AA tomboy."
And in the many many comments to Justine's post on the cover, here is just a sample:
Mary Ann Mohanraj: "Iâ€™ve been hesitant to talk about my own experience with HarperCollins and the cover for _Bodies in Motion_, for some of the same professionalism concerns you raise, but I think we need to have this conversation. Over and over again, until people in industry start to really understand the damage thatâ€™s being done to the field."
Marrije: "A thought. Perhaps we could design alternative covers for this book (or other books) featuring pictures of non-white people and slip those over the book while reading out in public. With very legible author & title of course, so anyone who wonders what that super cool book youâ€™re reading is would still know what to ask for at the book shop. We could start a movement!"
Patrick Nielsen Hadyen: "I think, as you suggest, that the idea that white people wonâ€™t buy books with black people on the covers is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because book publishing is an enterprise in which any given venture is vulnerable to a lot of random imponderables, people inside of it tend to be prone to superstitions. I remember when it was universally believed that green books donâ€™t sell."
Kelly Anderson: "Are the publishers so blind to our very diverse population? I find it disheartening to find that such stances are prevalent in the industry."
Rebecca: "So it never really occurred to me to wonder why the girl on the cover didnâ€™t look a thing like Micah. I loved the cover when I first saw it, and by the time I actually got to read the book, I wasnâ€™t giving the cover any thought at all. I can say that it never occurred to me that Micah wasnâ€™t black. I believed all those basic elements of her identity.
But now, as you have so brilliantly pointed out, itâ€™s really, glaringly obvious to me what a problem this is. And itâ€™s awful. Iâ€™m really, really glad you said something, because I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™d ever have noticed otherwise. I feel like Iâ€™ve been horribly blind, but at least now I can change that. I can start paying attention and doing something about it."
Kat G.: "Yes, authors donâ€™t get to decide how publishers package their books. But when an author is that upset about a cover, especially for a YA novel that is also going to be marketed to adults, to refuse to listen and to be so racially insensitive is a whole new level of idiocy. Bloomsbury didnâ€™t just harm you, they harmed their whole line. And they should fix it, not on the paperback, but right now on the hardcover."
Neesha Meminger: "Often, the issue of race gets portrayed as a matter of opinion, as in: I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s racist. The problem with this is that racism is not a matter of opinion. It is systemic, deeply ingrained, economic, and put in place by conscious design. It is not a coincidence that the poorest people all over the world are also, in overwhelming numbers, the darkest. You can ignore it, say itâ€™s their own fault, or if you think itâ€™s wrong, you can try to do something to make things different."