Have you looked at the sky? Gotten your boots and raincoat out? You better. A major storm is growing.
Justine Larbalestier wrote a good book that was well received in Australia. The book cover used on the Australia book encouraged a good read. Then her book came to U.S. And the storm broke.
The book called, LIAR, about a young black girl that is a liar. The reader is challenged to decide what parts of the story is true or lies by the main character. We don't even know her name and many, many people know what she looks like - an African-American tomboy with short "nappy" hair. Why is this?
One reason. The book in the U.S. has a white girl with long, straight tresses covering the lower part of her face on the jacket of the novel. But there is no doubt. The picture is of a white girl.
I congratulate the author. She never said a word about her dismay. Until. Others spoke up and complained. First people left comments everywhere online asking why the huge discrepancy. Then article after article came about. Many are listed below. The statement-probably-argument has abounded. Why does a book have a white girl with long, straight tresses on the jacket of a novel about an African-American tomboy with short, "nappy" hair?
One questions whether the publisher did this because Young Adult books don't sell with Black models on the book covers. One would assume they did research to attest to this claim. Another suggest that white kids have the money to buy books, and they won't buy a book with a Black girl on the cover. Melanie Cecka, publishing director of Bloomsbury Children's Books USA and Walker Books for Young Readers, who worked on Liar states: "The entire premise of this book is about a compulsive liar. Of all the things you're going to choose to believe of her, you're going to choose to believe she was telling the truth about race?"
Even Larbalestier is upset. "I love my publisher," she said. "[But] I never wanted this cover. I made it clear I didn't want a white girl's face. Having this cover on the front is undermining the book that I wrote." Justine chose wisely and didn't speak up until the storm was raging. On her blog, she speaks her thoughts on this subject. But she stresses one thing about her publisher. "I want to make it clear that while I disagree with Bloomsbury about this cover I am otherwise very happy to be with them. They've given me space to write the books I want to writeÔÇª. I have artistic freedom there, which is extraordinarily important to me. They are solidly behind my work and have promoted it at every level in ways I have never been promoted before."
What are your thoughts on this debate? And if you see racism at work here, how can you as a book buyer and reader do to assist the publishers in changing their thinking about books with Black or Latino/a covers?