1. It starts with the book cover for Magic Under Glass.
2. It becomes a discussion, again, about a book with a female protagonist identified in the text as dark skinned that is depicted by the publisher on the cover as having light skin.
3. Then it got to be about way more than one book.
4. Ari has a post with some excellent links which I recommend reading to get yourself up to speed.
5. Susan posted about personally boycotting Bloomsbury and her collective frustration with the "don't hurt the author" attitude and also bloggers who don't post on this issue (and readers who keep buying the book even though the cover hurts them).
6. Kristi, (aka Story Siren) posted asking if she was a "bad person" (tongue in cheek) for not making a big deal about the cover.
7. Kristi's friends responded quickly. A pile on then ensued in the comments about if you are good or bad for noticing or not noticing covers, if it is anyone's job to call out bloggers for what they mention or not mention at their blogs, if covers matter, and why some folks think they matter so much while others opined it is only "the story that matters".
8. Someone also said that as they were really pale, the girl on the cover actually looked dark skinned to them. (I think there was a collective cringing at that point.)
9. Martin Luther King was quoted. More than once.
10. Kristi closed the comments on her post which were completely careening out of control. (Good call, that one.)
11. However in her post she also mentioned how generally off base covers can often be, using other examples.
12. I think the example of overweight teens who are portrayed as a size 2 on a cover is a valid point, the others - not so much.
13. Susan then had another post up about how YA bloggers are letting her down when they say it is not their job to notice and/or blog about something like the Magic Under Glass cover.
14. Neesha Meminger had a prescient comment at Susan's: "Just want to point out that you can respect someone's right to not respond AND know they are being complicit in a system that forces us to either be part of the problem, or part of the solution. For instance, I know there are racist people out there. I can respect (and even argue for) their right to speak their minds -- AND I can also know that what they say is racist. The two are not mutually exclusive."
15. Some people truly just don't get it and trying to force them to get it is an issue that is going to get us way off track.
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.
19. And yes, when you do this with a protagonist regardless of color who is larger then the cover model then you saying that being bigger than a size 2 is something to be ashamed of as well.
20. Saying any of this to teenagers, who already are at risk for self destructive behavior, self loathing and suicide, is beyond wrong. It needs to stop.
21. So what to do?
22. I think if you haven't noticed this issue by now and you blog about books for kids and teens then you aren't going to notice it anytime soon. Whatever. You can certainly blog about puppies, rainbows or your grandmother's recipes. I can't make you blog about diversity. I would ask you though to consider just why you haven't noticed and what that glaring omission says about you.
23. Enough said on that.
24. You can boycott Bloomsbury if you want to. As it happens I did not see a single book in the Spring/Summer catalog that appealed to me so I'm sort of boycotting by default. However, Lisa Klein has a new book set in the Elizabethan court due out this fall and I would like to read it as I think she's a great writer. So I'm not boycotting Bloomsbury, not really.
25. My choice is to continue this conversation and just to get louder.
26. I notice covers and I will comment on them - a lot. Anyone who says they don't notice covers (good, bad or just stupid) is fooling themselves I think. You notice, you just choose to say they do not matter. It's a choice, remember that.
27. If you choose to read books for teens and children, if you choose to go one step further and review them, especially if you choose to receive books for review from publishers, then you owe something to every child and teen who might read that book. You owe something to an audience beyond those who look just like you.
28. I think about that every day.
29. What can you do about the cover for Magic Under Glass?
30. You can demand diversity from the publishers you review. You can demand diversity from the authors you read. You can demand diversity from yourself. Write an email, boycott a publisher, rail against the world in your posts. Just do something, and do it right now.
And frankly, I wish the author had thought about all this when she first saw the cover. Because it is her story and it is her name on the cover and at the end of the day, she owns this as well.
31. Final thought. Lots of folks have commented at various posts that it is the publishers or editors or marketing people or designers who decide covers. It is not the author's fault. Don't hurt the author by ignoring an otherwise decent book. I understand that. However our country collectively suffers from "IT IS A NAMELESS FACELESS OTHER WHO DID THIS" and never anyone specific. We do not know who caused the banking crisis or the mortgage crisis or the health care crisis or Afghanistan or Iraq. It is always something bigger than individuals that drags us down.
This drives me crazy.
We will never know who makes the cover choice in a situation like this because no one will ever say it was their choice and their choice alone. That's how it is. Accepting that nameless faceless others continue to set the standard for books that are published and covers that are placed on them is our choice. We can thus make it personal by getting personal.
We personally blog about it, we collectively notice and we continuously call to task the books and publishers that ignore diversity. We don't go away.
The thing that is most important, that we can not lose sight of, is that this issue hurts people. It hurts a lot of kids and a lot of teenagers and a lot of adults and that is really and completely the only thing that matters. And if you don't see that then I don't know how to make you ever understand.
[The irony that I am posting this on Martin Luther King Day is not lost on me.]