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Is Bloomsbury Hanging Out the “Whites Only” Sign?

Last year,    Bloomsbury published a book called Liar by Justine Larbalestier. The narrator of the story is Micah, a bi racial “nappy headed” tomboy. The first cover featured a white girl. After much controversy driven by the YA blogs, the cover was eventually changed. No real apology was issued by Bloomsbury. Now we know why. Bloomsbury doesn’t want dark skinned people on their covers. The recent Bloomsbury release, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, features a beautiful cover. The problem? The protagonist is “dark skinned”.   Read this letter from a teen on this subject.

So is Bloomsbury just trying to cater to the YA book buying public by not putting people of color on the covers of its books?   Are white people the only people who buy books?   Isn’t it insulting to white people to suggest that they will only buy books with white people on the cover even if the book is about a person of color?   It’s certainly offensive to people of color to have the covers whitewashed.

I don’t even know what Bloomsbury is thinking but the message seems to be clear:   ”whites only”.

What is the appropriate response to this sort of thing?   An email or letter writing campaign? Public shaming? Personal boycotts of all Bloomsbury books?  Here is some contact information:

Editorial and Marketing office:
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Phone: 646-307-5151
Fax: 212-780-0115
bloomsbury.kids@bloomsburyusa.com
children.publicity@bloomsburyusa.com

This is a list of Bloomsbury executives (white, male, old) and here is a list of contact emails. Bloomsbury Children appears to be distributed by Macmillan.

Links to other blogs:

Feel free to copy this entire post and put it on your blog (no need to give DA a link back. Just go forth and shame Bloomsbury).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

170 Comments

  1. katiebabs
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 10:59:30

    Jane, Dolamore’s cover was created before Liar:

    http://xicanti.livejournal.com/173376.html

    It seems this was known back in December and now weeks later is has exploded, probably because of the holidays.

  2. joanne
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 13:48:59

    Sad. Sad, sad, sad, sad.

    It’s offensive to YA book buyers of all colors because the publisher is saying “you’re stupid and you’ll buy what we give you”.

    The reader suffers an insult, the author suffers an insult, and the publishing industry gets yet another Huge Zero in customer relations.

    I’m not a big believer in boycotting a book unless it’s the author at fault for something, but slamming Bloomsbury with emails and phone calls and faxes and letters of opinions would be a personal favorite.

  3. Dejah
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 14:13:25

    Book publishers are NOTORIOUS for not having covers that match the book’s content. The artists don’t read the books. Often as not, neither do the marketers. You’re LUCKY if they even read your thumbnail description of the characters. I’m not sure I’d attribute simple incompetence to malice after just two covers. What’s the long term count of people of color on the covers versus in the books? Do they get it wrong all the time or only occasionally?

    This coming from a white woman with an unpublished novel featuring two relatively short “of color” heroes. Will I be insulted when they inevitably get it wrong? Probably not. Will I laugh and figure that’s how the business is? Yeah, sure. Maybe because I’m not of color. I am fat and I do get annoyed when they put a skinny model on the cover of Good in Bed. So perhaps it’s a matter of perspective.

    Should you complain? Write letters? Get the cover changed? Absolutely! I’d like further data before I cry racism though.

  4. Maili
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 15:45:06

    I honestly don’t know how to react to this. I’m seeing quite a few “Huh? How DO you know she’s Caucasian? It’s too dim to see!” comments at some places including Twitter. As if they were dismissing the others’ concerns. I see this kind of comments during the Liar kick-up and many others before that as well.

    If we kicked the Bloomsbury doors down, would Bloomsbury and other publishers say “OK, we were in the wrong and we won’t do it again. Pinky promise!”? I doubt it.

    I think what would cause a ripple is take it to a body that can slam a fine on a company like Bloomsbury for putting out a misleading advertisement, since a book cover is some sort of an advertisement.

    But some will say to this, “Whoa. A bit extreme there, darls.” OK, so tell me what’s the best way to go? What can stop publishers doing this, especially in children’s fiction and YA fiction? Boycott? Is it really that effective?

  5. Jia
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 16:15:58

    @Dejah: It happens all the time. All. The. Time. To the point that readers of color don’t bother to keep count anymore.

    As I was telling a friend when she brought up this latest cover controversy, what happened with Liar is rare.

  6. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 16:25:20

    I’m afraid people may not understand how difficult it is to fulfill cover art portraying persons of color, particularly people of multiracial/multiethnic heritage.

    I live in a multicultural region and I can say honestly that, of the three cover art samples depicted on this blog, at least two of them (the center and the left) do, indeed, look biracial to me.

    Terns like “dark,” “swarthy” and “dark-skinned” mean different things to different people.

    I am of multiracial heritage myself and frequently portray biracial or multiracial characters in my writing. I always appreciate the efforts cover artists go through to provide a reasonably authentic look to my cover art.

    The biracial/multiracial community is a literal cornucopia in terms of coloring, hair texture and type, bone structure and features. There is no one “look” that states “biracial.” What are the odds of finding a “perfect match” for a model/photo of a “nappy-headed (biracial) tomboy?”

    Sometimes you just have to make do with what’s available.

  7. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 16:37:43

    Isn't it insulting to white people to suggest that they will only buy books with white people on the cover even if the book is about a person of color? It's certainly offensive to people of color to have the covers whitewashed.

    Jane, as I already mentionned, I am of biracial heritage. My overall apparance, however, is white and I am generally defined as “white” socially and legally (i.e., identification, medical records)

    It does not offend me that people get it wrong. Race is an artificial social construct and the individual’s judgment is usually based on multiple criteria (a person’s skin color, hair type/texture, facial features and bone structure, etc.) to “categorize” other people into “racial groups.”

    Why should I get angry with someone for making a judgment call like that? My general coloring and appearance do match the type commonly attributed to persons predominantly of European Anglo-Saxon ancestry.

  8. Jane
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 16:38:21

    @Maili: I think the boycott is the best idea. I’ve thought a lot about this since the Liar fiasco. Why should readers protect authors who won’t stand up for their own books? Boycotts work because it hits companies where it actual hurts – the bottom line. Email campaigns, phone calls, they are so easily brushed aside, particularly when these books are raised in profile by the notoriety surrounding the book. One of the reasons I never blogged about the Liar issue was because I didn’t want Bloomsbury to benefit from its own outrageous actions.

  9. Jane
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 16:42:55

    @A: I don’t know what you are talking about. The book in question features a “dark skinned” character, not a biracial character.

    The reference to the insult to whites is the idea that publishers are putting white kids on the cover instead of people of color because the assumption may be that white people won’t buy books with people on the cover. If that is the assumption, it is insulting to white readers.

  10. joanne
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 16:56:18

    @Jane: But, playing devil’s advocate, doesn’t that hurt the author more than the publisher? Or not, I truly don’t know.

    I just get a feeling of being wrong if I’m boycotting a piece of work because of the cover art. Maybe slapping at the publisher with letters may not have the same results but at least the publisher won’t then be able to say “see, AA authors/stories don’t sell”.

    @A: Lots of publishers “get it right”. Kimani Press and Kensington,
    Ballantine Books/Random House and others. The art departments just have to read the author’s description of the characters to get it close enough.

  11. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 16:56:21

    @Jane:

    One of the reasons I never blogged about the Liar issue was because I didn't want Bloomsbury to benefit from its own outrageous actions.

    What outrageous actions? Do you mean the cover art depiction of a heroine that does not meet your standard of what a “real biracial person” looks like?

    You made this intense allegation:

    Bloomsbury doesn't want dark skinned people on their covers.

    I have yet to see any convincing corroboration of this “fact.”

    Consider some high-profile people, all of whom are biracial/multiracial: Kate Beckinsale, Dean Cain, Keanu Reeves, Jessica Biel, Beyonce, Barack Obama and his daughters, Jennifer Beals, Alexandre Dumas pere, Alexandre Dumas fils, Sean Lennon, Angelina Jolie, Jasmine Guy, Sinbad, Halle Berry, and Tiger Woods.

    In your mind, are some of these folks not qualified to represent biracial/multiracial persons due to their looks not being “exotic” enough? Who makes that call?

  12. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:05:31

    @Jane:

    @A: I don't know what you are talking about. The book in question features a “dark skinned” character, not a biracial character.

    What does “dark-skinned” mean, Jane?

    Stand me up beside my best friend (a typical “Nordic” looking woman, very fair complexion) and I am dark-skinned compared to her. Stand me beside my grandmother (dark olive complexion) and I’m lily-white. For that matter, your photo is “darker” than me.

    The model in the cover cited by you is, indeed dark-skinned. There are certainly people fairer in appearance in this world.

    This “confusion” is not related to racism and/or colorism, it is related to varying human perspective.

    Who are we to say the cover model is not “really” dark-skinned? Perhaps the model’s coloring/looks don’t fulfill the reader’s perception of what the heroine looks like, but that’s a frequent problem with most cover art.

  13. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:10:41

    @joanne:

    @A: Lots of publishers “get it right”. Kimani Press and Kensington,
    Ballantine Books/Random House and others. The art departments just have to read the author's description of the characters to get it close enough.

    Since we have no access to the author’s cover art request form, we have no way of knowing if the cover art is “right” or “wrong.”

    Again, “dark-skinned” is a relative term.

  14. Maili
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:18:32

    Huh. It does pay to research before you make assumptions, A.

    I’m mixed race and unlike you, I don’t look like an European Anglo-Saxon – even though I have 80% of that in my DNA make-up.

    I do see where you’re coming from on this one, but you’re latching on the wrong end of this issue. Both authors say the models on their book covers do not live up to THEIR visions of their heroines.

    To be honest, justifying and excusing Bloomsbury’s decision, based on your experiences as a white-looking person, is not all right. Especially if you have a luxury to inform people you’re mixed race whenever it suits you.

  15. Maili
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:25:10

    @A:

    This “confusion” is not related to racism and/or colorism, it is related to varying human perspective.

    “Stereotypes” is a term you’re looking for.

  16. Jane
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:26:08

    @joanne: Why should the readers stand up where the authors would not? Aren’t the authors just as complicit by choosing not to rock the boat? Because they want to publish and they don’t want to be labeled as difficult so they swallow their tongues and let the book be published with cover art that whitewashes their own characters.

  17. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:35:43

    @Maili:

    Both authors say the models on their book covers do not live up to THEIR visions of their heroines.

    I have cover art featuring characters, both monoracial and multiracial, that don’t live up to my vision of those characters.

    It has never occured to me that the cover artist and/or the publisher dislike white characters or dislike nonwhite characters, or red-haired characters, dark-skinned characters, or any other attribute. I attribute the variance to differing human perspective.

    In some cases I’ve been very lucky, others not so much.

    To be honest, justifying and excusing Bloomsbury's decision, based on your experience as a white-looking person, is not all right.

    To be honest, your judgment call that I’m not right to express my opinion — an opinion based upon my own professional experiences and experiences of professionally published friends and relatives — has little significance to the issue.

    Especially if you have a luxury to inform people you're mixed race whenever it suits you.

    That you qualify your judgment with colorist prejudices says far more about your judgment’s value than your judgment itself.

  18. joanne
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:48:33

    @Jane: Ah well, it pays to finish the research before commenting. I just read the author’s own words on her site and even though she’s known about the cover a long time she’s too exhausted to deal with the issue right now. geeze.

    You’re correct to say she (the author) is just as responsible for not making waves, even if it is after the fact and maybe more so then, and doesn’t deserve buyers to rally around her.

    @A: You’re right. Whatever your issue/s is/are you’re right. Right. Right. Right.

  19. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:52:50

    @Jane:

    Aren't the authors just as complicit by choosing not to rock the boat? Because they want to publish and they don't want to be labeled as difficult so they swallow their tongues and let the book be published with cover art that whitewashes their own characters.

    As an author, I admit I’m not going to kick up a fuss over a book’s cover art not meeting my exact specifications or fulfilling my “vision” of how a character looks. It is more important to me that the cover’s overall tone and “mood” fit the book well.

    I and other author friends have had “bad art pity parties”…then we get over it and move on and hope the next cover’s better.

  20. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 18:05:42

    @joanne:

    @A: You're right. Whatever your issue/s is/are you're right. Right. Right. Right.

    Excuse me, but I don’t have an “issue.” I thought the issue at hand was Jane’s allegation of the following:

    Bloomsbury doesn't want dark skinned people on their covers.

    The evidence supporting this allegation is a selection of book covers that (I’m assuming) Jane does not view as “dark-skinned enough” (whatever that is.)

  21. The Daily Square – Everyday People Edition | Booksquare
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 18:30:58

    [...] Is Bloomsbury Hanging Out the “Whites Only” Sign?Ah, Bloomsbury, really? [...]

  22. cdouglas
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 19:19:49

    @A: I think you may be confused about the covers posted. The one of the far left was the first cover of Liar, the one in the middle is new cover that the publisher released after the controversy, and then the one on the far right is the one where, in the book, the character is “dark skinned”. I really don’t think the issue here is whether Jane thinks they are “dark skinned enough”.

  23. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 20:16:21

    @cdouglas:

    Hi, cdouglas.

    I am sorry to differ with you, but I do believe my assertion is correct.

    The title of this blog post, “Is Bloomsbury Hanging Ou the “Whites Only” Sign?” inflames racial sensitivities.

    From there, Jane goes on to fault Bloomsbury’s “racial/color cover error” concerning the book “Liar.” The fact that Bloomsbury changed the cover isn’t good enough since they didn’t apologize for the original “error.” From there, Jane triumphantly concludes that “Bloomsbury doesn't want dark skinned people on their covers.” Her “proof” of this fact consists of a new book cover featuring a model that (to some) is not “dark-skinned.”

    She then encourages people to reprimand Bloomsbury, noting in her post:

    This is a list of Bloomsbury executives (white, male, old)

    I am uncertain why Jane sees the need to point out the race, gender, and age of Bloomsbury executives. Does this make the error somehow more grievous than if the execs were all black, female, and young?

    For someone wanting to e-spank a company for a weak (at best) allegation of “disliking brown skin,” this blogger reveals a racist hang-up in her own blog.

    Bloomsbury is obviously NOT “hanging out a Whites Only sign.” It appears to me that, when advised of their original “color error” the company corrected the error. Now a new book featuring an obviously multiethnic model is being held up as proof that “Bloomsbury doesn't want dark skinned people on their covers.”

    Perhaps if enough hypersensitive types complain long enough, Bloomsbury will release a new cover for this book as well, after carefully consulting whoever it is one must consult to determine what color and shade complexion “dark” really is.

  24. roslynholcomb
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 20:37:09

    I would suggest instead of boycotting this debut author, we go after the book that’s probably going to be their blockbuster for this year, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, and instead support this author by buying this book in droves. Presumably Gilbert having been an Oprah pick has made plenty of money, and obviously this would hurt Bloomsbury much worse than boycotting a YA book.

  25. Robin
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 20:43:27

    @roslynholcomb: Are you being serious or snarky? Because boycotting an unrelated/unimplicated author’s book as opposed to a publisher’s collective output or an offensively covered book seems, well, problematic to me, on a number of levels.

    Also, and perhaps of more material importance given your point, how would high sales of a book with such an obviously white-washed cover send the message to Bloomsbury that we don’t approve of the racial manipulation? My understanding of how publishers work is that they would interpret stronger sales of Dolamore’s book as active approval to do MORE whitewashing, not less.

  26. roslynholcomb
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 20:52:46

    Actually, I’m not being snarky. Boycotting this book would be unfair because this author would be doubly punished for trying to be culturally inclusive. Obviously boycotting the Gilbert book would be far more painful to Bloomsbury than boycotting a YA title (except Potter of course.) Makes perfectly good sense to me.

  27. Publishing: Jim Crow’s Last Stand « the one who writes
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 20:54:37

    [...] Dear Author is recommending a letter-writing campaign, which I suppose could be effective as well. I suppose a multi-pronged attack is probably in order here. Bottom line is, we have too few YA books that feature people of color, then again, they might be in there, but with these whitewashed covers, who would know? Posted by roslynholcomb Filed in End of the World Leave a Comment » [...]

  28. Mythicagirl
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 21:06:19

    The author of Liar has info on her blog regarding how she imagined the character of Micah, the protag of the book to look like.
    She even provided a pic of basketball player Alana Beard here:
    http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/

    I see she’s also weighed in on this latest controversy:

    “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.”
    http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/

    The author of Magic Under Glass has not specified the ethnicity of her protag. But she states in the book, about the girl being dark brown on pg 96 of the novel.

  29. Mythicagirl
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 21:25:22

    Here’s a larger pic of the Magic Under Glass cover model:

    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Q%2B0MmPZfL._SS500_.jpg

    That’s not dark skinned and that’s not dark brown, that’s not even olive imho. I’d guess its a lovely stock photo and the model’s white or if she’s biracial, she could pass for white (though her body looks like it was photoshopped).

    Jane, thanks for the article. And Ari’s (the teen who wrote the post decribing her disappointment)intelligence, courage and ability to put her pain about this matter into such an eloquent post for one so young is to be commended.

  30. jennifer armintrout
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 21:48:27

    I’m really dismayed at the number of people saying this is no big deal, or just the nature of the business. Congratulations, you’re officially part of the problem now!

  31. Emily
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 21:53:13

    I’m half white. My skin is brown and my features are non-white.

    I care about what’s *in* the book, not the stupid cover. If white people on the cover sell more books, then I’m all for it.

    Actually, right now I’d be more likely to buy a book with a white person on the cover. Why? If a brown person was on the cover, then I would expect there to be lots of angsty race stuff in it. I don’t want to read about race stuff. I’m am sick to death of race stuff, especially after the nuttiness of RaceFail. Now I’m no longer a person, I’m a freaking exhibit of *race*. When I go to SF cons, there are people counting me!!

  32. starlady
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 21:56:40

    Thanks for providing that contact info. Covers are driven by marketing decisions, and enough bad press and negative customer feedback should eventually force marketing to reconsider. Assuming, of course, that all the actors in this scenario are rational in the economic sense of the term.

  33. anonymous coward
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 23:05:51

    I find this much ado about nothing. Most authors have very little, if any, control over the cover art. Marketing departments are notorious for sticking space-ships on fantasy novels, and showing improbably-endowed heroines with anatomy that’s clearly in defiance of gravity. In fact, many publishers go buy a dozen or so cover images at a time, then assign to any book that’s vaguely in the same genre.

    The publisher responded to complaints by producing a more accurate cover — where’s the problem? Frankly, it would make just as much sense for all small-breasted women to boycott the next romance novel showing a voluptuous heroine, because it’s ‘keeping them down’ and destroying their self esteem.

    Besides, book covers, in marketing parlance, do MORE than just capture a quick shot from the pages within. Add a sexy male to the cover of your typical urban fantasy, and it’s suddenly perceived as paranormal romance. Add a smiling African American couple to your book cover, and the bookstores will shelve it with the African American romance, without a second thought. It’s just marketing — the cover contains clues that tell readers what kind of book it is.

    Roslyn:
    Your logic is dizzying. When in doubt, attack an innocent bystander. That’s the same kind of thinking that leads to bombing a coffee shop because you don’t like the president!

  34. Angela
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 23:43:56

    I am astounded by the “who cares” attitude from the people on this blog. Certainly Jane’s title is inflammatory and exaggerated, but the controversy stems from the institution of white supremacy, which stresses that whites are more desirable, more marketable, more relatable to peoples of any ethnic or cultural background, whereas people of color are only relatable to people of their specific ethnic and/or cultural background.

  35. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 00:53:32

    @Angela:

    Certainly Jane's title is inflammatory and exaggerated, but the controversy stems from the institution of white supremacy, which stresses that whites are more desirable, more marketable, more relatable to peoples of any ethnic or cultural background, whereas people of color are only relatable to people of their specific ethnic and/or cultural background.

    The controversy arises from nowhere.

    A book cover reflecting less than an ideal version of a book’s content has nothing to do with white supremacy.

    People are saying the model on the cover is not “dark-skinned.” I’ve already requested a definition of “dark-skinned” and no one will provide one. In my viewpoint, the cover model qualifies as “dark-skinned” in comparison to many people and also matches at least in part these quotes from the book:

    “My hair tumbled down my back, glossy black and shining in the low light.” (page 3)

    “I knew how the men of Lorinar thought, what they wanted. To him, I was dark and foreign and crude.” (page 4)

    “…pink does not do with skin like yours.” (pp 32-33)

    “Miss Rashten thinks pink doesn’t suit my complexion,” I warned him.
    “Nonsense,” he said. “There is no color more feminine than pink; no woman it does not suit, and you especially, with your golden glow.” (page 64)

    “[The dress] dipped low in back and front…exposing what seemed like far too much of my brown skin.” (page 96)

    http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com/2010/01/cover-of-magic-under-glass.html

    The heroine is described as “brown,” “dark,” and “golden.” The cover model and the style of the cover do match that description.

    Again, until someone provides a concrete definition for these terms, they are subject to interpretation.

    If the model does not qualify as “brown,” “dark,” and “golden,” who does?

  36. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 01:08:31

    Keep in mind that, in order to address Jane’s allegation of Bloomsbury’s “Whites Only” attitude, one must be able to reliably define:

    1. what is white (as pertains to “race”)
    2. what is nonwhite (as pertains to “race”)
    3. what is “dark-skinned” or “dark” (as pertains to color)
    4. what is brown (as pertains to color)
    5. what is golden (as pertains to color)

    Keeping in mind the artificiality of race…the individuals taking umbrage at this issue are basing their concerns on artificiality, a condition that does not exist.

  37. Ana
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 01:54:14

    @A

    Did you read the links provided by Jane? They include information on the book trailer. You can see the heroine then: that is the dark skinned we mention.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFvAq2lgrZ4

    Also, the author mentioned that she would like to see a different cover for the paperback (hers is the first comment on this review) :

    http://xicanti.livejournal.com/173376.html

  38. roslynholcomb
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 06:30:47

    Your logic is dizzying. When in doubt, attack an innocent bystander. That's the same kind of thinking that leads to bombing a coffee shop because you don't like the president!

    Your lack of commonsense is astounding. You want to boycott a book to get a publisher’s attention and to, of course, hurt them in the pocketbook. Let’s see to you boycott a book by an debut YA author that might sell 50k copies if she’s lucky. Or, do you go after Gilbert’s book which has received the full Oprah and all the accompanying media attention? Gee, is that even a question? And, I hesitate to point this out, since it so patent, but if Bloomsbury’s books are boycotted totally, that would include Gilbert’s book anyway. I simply think making it the focus is bound to draw more media attention. And, presumably media attention is what we want.

  39. HotLikeSauce
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 07:58:18

    Is this book shelved in the “African American” literature section with all the other books written by/about African Americans regardless of genre? Or is it being marketed as YA and shelved just with YA books? If it’s the former then I can understand why the publishers might have not gone with a more “colorful” looking cover model and I think the bookstores should be seen as being partially at fault since they shelve all African American fiction together. At least they do at the chain bookstores near me.

    I imagine it is better for YA sales to be shelved with Twilight than with Ralph Ellison.

  40. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 09:31:54

    @Ana:

    The trailer doesn’t really clue me in any more than previously. Im assuming the black-haired animated figure represents the heroine. While I agree the figure’s hair is darker (black) I can’t say I see a dramatic variation in skintone compared to the cover model.

    Regarding the author’s comment from the blog:

    My cover was already made before the LIAR controversy, of course…, It would be nice to see a darker girl on the paperback…the hair, particularly…Nimira’s hair is her best feature! Although I love that dress. =( It will be nice when the industry straightens this out. Ever since Liar I’ve noticed a lot of books with white girls on the cover and non-white girls in the pages…

    To my mind, this comment is quite typical of an author disappointed that his/her “vision” was not fully realized by the cover artist. This happens all the time and not only as relates to a character’s coloring. The difference, to my mind, is that “race” being such a hot-button issue is being utilized to add drama to this particular situation.

    I’ve nit-picked like this over my cover art as well, as have other authors. We “see” our characters very clearly and a less than ideal portrayal is “jarring” at best.

    I have not read the book, but based upon the gist of it gleaned via the articles, I do think the cover is a fair representation of the story’s tone and content, which is much more important than a “perfect match” in “dark skin” (again, whatever that is — who represents this ideal in “dark” and “golden” skin? Mariah Carey? Paula Abdul? Iman? Grace Jones? Queen Nefertiti?)

    I empathize with author’s hair comment. In my most recent release, the heroine has ultra-curly hair (think tight ringlets a la Justine Waddell.) In the cover art, the heroine is portrayed with long, shaggy layered hair (very “current” looking — think actresses like Jessica Biel and Jessica Simpson.)

    I did my fifteen minutes of inner griping and moved on, because I was satisfied that the cover’s overall impression suited the book’s tone and genre.

    If every author less than 100% fully satisfied with cover art was allowed final say in every artistic detail of cover art, the industry would operate even more slowly than it already does.

  41. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 09:57:17

    @A As a bi-racial person, with 50% white and 50% South Asian heritage, I do find your insistence that race is an artificial construction, a “condition that does not exist” mildly amusing and largely insulting.

    It is also, of course, exceedingly historically inaccurate. To pick up just one of your examples: President Barack Obama is the child of a white mother. But I have never, anywhere, seen him referred to as white. He is overwhelmingly described as a black president, or an African-American president. Rarely is he described as an Hawaiian president. Why not? Sarah Palin, who is brown haired and brown eyed yet undeniably white, is usually referred to as the Alaskan (ex) governor, not as the white Governor of Alaska. Why?

    White is the cultural default setting of America – if you are white, you are American. If you are anything else, you are an hyphenated-American – African-American, Native-American, Asian-American etc. Thus when someone outside that perceived cultural norm steps into the public spotlight, their ethnicity and race is often the first thing that defines them, with both their supporters and detractors.

    This is not a society in which race does not matter, however much we might wish differently. I’m happy that in your experience race has not been an unhappy factor, but please do not glibly dismiss the experiences of the vast majority of hyphenated Americans and the terrible history of racism, prejudice and discrimination in this country and across the world as “a condition that does not exist.” You may be color-blind, but often that simply means that you do not truly see or recognize the people around you.

    Concerning the covers – its pretty hard to mistake covers 1 and 3 for anything other than Caucasian. It’s bad enough when a character described as a green-eyed redhead is depicted on the cover as a blue-eyed blond, but this is truly egregious. It certainly seems to reflect a marketing policy which assumes that covers featuring people of color do not sell as well as covers featuring white people. And that is definitely racist, and says something very sad about our society as a whole, as I imagine the publishing industry probably has statistics that back up that policy.

    Having said that, I would like to see a few more examples of this type of cover white-wash before I can decide whether this is a prejudiced mistake or a general policy on the part of either this publisher or the industry.

  42. Maili
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 10:48:49

    I’m going to throw it out of a window and just say it.

    Discussions like this makes me feel – not believe, but FEEL – that if authors don’t speak up against marketing/art dept of their publishers for having white models when those models should be darker or whatnot, they shouldn’t have a right to have anything but white characters in their future stories. This applies to other authors who aren’t involved with this particular issue, but had this happened to them as well. Including:

    Christine Feehan – Mind Games (hero is half-Native American and half-Japanese, and the cover has a blue-eyed Caucasian model.)

    Kelly Jameson – Dead On (heroine is Chinese American and the cover model isn’t.)

    Emma Holly – In the Flesh (hero is Japanese and the model isn’t, but it can be argued that he may be, but I have my doubts.)

    Meljean Brook – Demon Moon (heroine is Indian American and the cover model has light skin. Meljean has commented on this oversight a couple of times, but as far as I know, she didn’t speak against it when she received the cover.)

    These are a few examples of a tradition going on for a long time. I have no idea about other genres including YA fiction, but wouldn’t be surprised if it’s going on in those genres for a long time as well.

    (Harlequin (not too sure about Mills & Boon) has been making a fantastic attempt ensuring that their models look similar to the characters inside. I actually picked up Loreth Anne White’s The Heart of a Renegade when I was in the mood to “be the heroine” (rare, but I’m not immune to moments of wanting to relate to the heroine). I’m sure they have made a couple of missteps, but at least they are trying, certainly a lot harder and more consistent than most mainstream and electronic publishers these days. So, massive kudos to Harlequin.)

    If an author cares enough to have a POC as heroine or hero, they – including their editor – could at least have the guts and integrity to take it all the way to their book cover.

    Especially in YA fiction. I can’t believe some are failing to see the importance of building our future generation’s self-esteem and self-worth. Publishers have to be more consistent because it seems that they only put up a POC model on a cover if the story deals with Issues. Even I came to learn the book covers coding system. If a cover has a black character, the story is probably about dealing with racism and family problems. Asian model? Memoirs, political struggles in mainland China or adjustments since moving to the US. It’s no surprise that some readers, regardless of their own ethnicities, prefer to pick up covers with white models. We all want to read escapism fiction sometimes, but there IS escapism fiction that feature POC characters. Why aren’t publishers making this clear? Why so inconsistent?

    So I think it’s important for publishers to be consistent with cover art as this could put a stop to the ‘coding system’ of book covers. It could stop readers assuming that it may be about “Racism, Social Struggle, Issues,” etc. if it has a non-white model on a cover. I’m so inarticulate with explaining what I mean here, but I hope it makes sense.

    So, all this “authors have no say in it!” mantra — unless there is solid proof that the marketing dept says white models sell best, it’s not good enough, not any more. Certainly not in 2010. If more authors and readers speak up, publishers will – or rather, should – listen. Until then, they will carry on with this kind of thing. We all have a responsibility, surely?

    I know some readers shy from picking up books with non-white covers, but please do speak up, anyway. It doesn’t matter if you won’t read those books, at least do it for other readers who would.

    Thank you.

  43. mythicagirl
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 11:09:57

    Okay, for anyone interested, here’s a pic of the protag from the official trailer sanctioned by Bloomsbury and taken from the author’s website:

    http://www.jaclyndolamore.com/BackgroundGraphics/NimiraArt.png

    And a bigger pic of the cover in question:
    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Q%2B0MmPZfL._SS500_.jpg

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Here’s a pic of Tiana from The Princess and the Frog:

    http://pics.livejournal.com/mythicagirl/pic/00025q7w/s320x240

  44. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 11:11:15

    Shaheen:

    @A As a bi-racial person, with 50% white and 50% South Asian heritage, I do find your insistence that race is an artificial construction, a “condition that does not exist” mildly amusing and largely insulting.

    Scientific fact does not lie. No evidence exists to qualify the reality of “race” beyond the degree of a social construction based on physical appearance and miniscule genetic variation.

    I certainly qualify as multiracial in terms of this artificial condition, possessing Western European, Meditteranean, Mesoamerican and North American Indian heritage as well as African heritage. P.S., you’ve African heritage yourself. Everybody does. Look it up.

    If you choose to be insulted about biological reality, that’s your choice but biology won’t adjust to accomodate you.

    President Barack Obama is the child of a white mother. But I have never, anywhere, seen him referred to as white.

    Thank you for proving my point. Barack Obama refers to himself as a “black man.” U.S. law states race is self-defined. In America, you, I, or anybody can label ourselves “black,” “white,” or anything else. If race were a proved biological reality, this would be impossible.

    Oh, and by the way…Barack Obama is white. Prove me wrong?

    He is overwhelmingly described as a black president, or an African-American president. Rarely is he described as an Hawaiian president. Why not? Sarah Palin, who is brown haired and brown eyed yet undeniably white, is usually referred to as the Alaskan (ex) governor, not as the white Governor of Alaska. Why?

    I’ve never called Barack Obama “a black president” or an “Hawaiian president.” Barack Obama’s proper title at this time is President of the United States, style of address “Mr. President.”

    White is the cultural default setting of America – if you are white, you are American. If you are anything else, you are an hyphenated-American – African-American, Native-American, Asian-American etc.

    I am American. Prove me wrong?

    This is not a society in which race does not matter, however much we might wish differently.

    I have not said the artificial condition of “race” does not matter; I have said “race” is an artificial condition constructed by society. There is demonstrated social impact directly related to belief in “race.”

    The hysteria over the “not dark enough” book cover is a prime example.

    You may be color-blind, but often that simply means that you do not truly see or recognize the people around you.

    I am not colorblind. “Color” and “coloring” are not “race.”

    Concerning the covers – its pretty hard to mistake covers 1 and 3 for anything other than Caucasian.

    I disagree. Do you even know what “Caucasian” is?

    http://www.yale.edu/glc/events/race/Painter.pdf

    It's bad enough when a character described as a green-eyed redhead is depicted on the cover as a blue-eyed blond, but this is truly egregious.

    In what way? How is “inaccurate” skin color different from inaccurate hair color, eye color, etc.? (again, no one has clarified what “dark-skinned” actually IS, if we can’t even define it, how do we know the model isn’t dark-skinned?)

  45. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 11:31:31

    @Maili:

    I'm going to throw it out of a window and just say it.

    Discussions like this makes me feel – not believe, but FEEL – that if authors don't speak up against marketing/art dept of their publishers for having white models when those models should be darker or whatnot, they shouldn't have a right to have anything but white characters in their future stories. This applies to other authors who aren't involved with this particular issue, but had this happened to them as well. Including:

    Christine Feehan – Mind Games (hero is half-Native American and half-Japanese, and the cover has a blue-eyed Caucasian model.)

    Kelly Jameson – Dead On (heroine is Chinese American and the cover model isn't.)

    Emma Holly – In the Flesh (hero is Japanese and the model isn't, but it can be argued that he may be, but I have my doubts.)

    Meljean Brook – Demon Moon (heroine is Indian American and the cover model has light skin. Meljean has commented on this oversight a couple of times, but as far as I know, she didn't speak against it when she received the cover.)

    These are a few examples of a tradition going on for a long time.

    Speaking only for myself (as an author) I do care about cover art for my published work, but I’m not going to nit-pick over a character not being portrayed exactly as I perceive him. It is more important to me (as an author and as a writer) that the cover accurately communicate the overall tone and mood of the story itself.

    Imagine picking up a paranormal romance that screams “gothic Vampire,” all red, black, and white, garish lettering, somber-faced hero and swooney heroine…only to read and discover a fluffy, highly comic urban fantasy featuring a feisty heroine obsessed with high fashion couture. That’s much more jarring and disappointing to me (as a reader) than if the hero has brown, curly hair instead of straight blond hair.

    OR how about picking up an erotic romance where the cover features a menage in some sexy, half-dressed or undressed embrace…then you read and discover the book has one or two half-baked love scenes that don’t live up to the erotically charged cover art?

  46. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 12:02:33

    Sorry, I’m just not convinced of whitewashing in the far right cover. There are varying degrees of skin color, and this model is not clearly dark OR light. It’s hard to tell, yes. But is it racism? I don’t know.

    My current book, Set the Dark on Fire, features a non-white hero. The heroine is blonde. Neither of the cover models fit my description, but it never occurred to me to complain. I like the cover. The mood it conveys is exactly right.

    I guess what I’m saying is that anyone who wants to make a list of authors to be boycotted for not speaking up–add me to it.

  47. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 12:48:46

    @A – I notice you mention “Scientific fact” but barely pick up on the historical issues I raised, dismissing race simply as a “social construction.”

    Yes, race is a social construction. It is one that has had a very serious role in our history – you may dismiss this as “biological reality” but it is also historic fact that questions of race have led to the persecution, enslavement and deaths of vast numbers of people because of their “physical appearance and miniscule genetic variation.”

    People have been defining what “dark-skinned” vs. light-skinned is for many, many years. Perhaps it passed you by, but the Apartheid system in South Africa (which ended in 1994, a mere 14 years ago) was based on the question of who was dark-skinned and who was light-skinned. Dark-skinned Africans were deprived of citizenship and voting rights, relegated to Bantustans,and therefore could not physically be in white designated areas without appropriate papers and authorization. Pale-skinned Europeans were white and therefore naturally (scientifically and god-endowed, according to the literature of the day)entitled to rule a country in which they were very much the minority. Bi-racial people were classified as Coloureds – a designation partially decided on the basis of skin-color tests – they lived in townships, but were not required to have id papers at all times, and could work in the civil service.

    Let’s not forget the color-tests in American history, which included such quaint techniques as whether a pencil will stay in a person’s hair or slide out, and whether their skin was lighter or darker than a paper bag.

    Yes, color/race/ethnicity are somewhat arbitrary and twisted concepts. Yes – the visual codification of skin-color is not always what defines a person’s race. Yes, someone who has a white parent should be classified as white just as quickly as they are classified by their darker-skinned parent’s race. But they aren’t. Unless their skin is pale enough to “pass” (as it was called in both South African and American history), bi-racial people are almost never designated as white by society at large, and often even by themselves. All too frequently, despite its being simply a matter of “physical appearance and miniscule genetic variation” color/race/ethnicity are twisted together to discriminate against other people – to label them as other, lesser and less desirable.

    That is why this is such a big deal – by refusing to respect the description of the main protagonists of these books as people of color, this publisher is disenfranchising people of color as being worthy of reading about. A better example than hair color differences would be a book featuring two people of the same sex as the main romantic protagonists having a cover with a man and a woman in a clinch – not only does it completely misrepresent the storyline, it says homosexual relationships are distasteful and the book will not sell without the pretense of a heterosexual romance. Perhaps you find discrimination against gays also only a social construct without scientific merit, and therefore not worth getting upset about.

    You are, of course, entitled to your opinions about race, skin-color, and science. But, again I ask you, please do not dismiss the experience of millions of people of color who have been discriminated, marginalized and over-looked on the basis of their race and color, as somehow irrelevant because it is not “scientific.”

  48. Lyn
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 12:56:10

    IMO, the author of the book should have final say on cover art. Period.

    Is it possible whoever does the graphics just has the title of the book and not descriptions of the characters?

    The cover should reflect the author’s perception of the heroine, hero, both, or not use models at all. Not at all would be best in my opinion since the majority of book art is dorky and hokey looking anyway.

    I also think titles should reflect what the book is about. I’ve been mislead many a time by frivolous titles.

    And boycotting is a waste of time. They’ll keep cranking out the books and readers will keep buying regardless.

  49. mythicagirl
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:02:37

    I’m posting this only for anyone who may not know why this is a sensitive issue for many (though not all) African Americans and others of color.

    To those who may think its only a cover, I believe some historical perspective is needed. There are a couple of ways African Americans, or those thought to be descendants of Africans were depicted in past American culture. First, there was a time that offensive renderings were plentiful (smiling lawn jockeys, artwork with exaggerated features, whites in blackface, blacks in blackface) Second, even when Hollywood made movies with black characters who were paired with white love interests, they chose white women to play them (Ava Gardner in Showboat, Jeane Crain in Pinky, Natalie Wood in Kings Go Forth)

    African American musical acts had happy white faces on their album covers, the thought being white listeners would more readily pick up their album with people who looked like them.

    Reminders of those days gone past can be found each time you see Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. Blacks were addressed as “uncle” and “auntie” in the familiar, so as not to call them Mr. or Mrs, a form of respect not to be granted.

    If blacks were present at all, then a smile on the face was mandatory (that’s why AJ and UB are smiling)

    What Bloomsbury, and any other publisher who does this is falling back on is the cultural norms of the past, ones that no longer are talked about, but are still with us, perhaps subtlely to some, but still here none the less.

    It’s either a crude caracature, or not used at all, or a white/near white version (eventually used on the LIAR cover)

    The info I’ve listed above isn’t something readily taught in schools, though it should be so people realize why all the anger.

    So there’s more to all this, whether it was innocently done, or an intentional business decision. Unfortunately, you can’t change history. But you sure can keep on repeating it.

    On this site I’d like to add, the author of Magic Under Glass does not specify the race of her protag and has not as yet been as vocal about this as the author of LIAR. So while we may not be able to agree to disagree on this issue, I would like to think if you’ve ever been singled out or even left out, (which is utmost in the furor by some regarding this cover photo) because of how you look, or spoke, sexual orientation, nationality, religion etc. you can at least try to understand why this and other covers could be a bone of contention.

  50. Meljean Brook
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:22:59

    Meljean Brook – Demon Moon (heroine is Indian American and the cover model has light skin. Meljean has commented on this oversight a couple of times, but as far as I know, she didn't speak against it when she received the cover.)

    Ah. I had nothing to speak out against. She IS lighter than I imagine her and than she is described in the book, but her skin color is very close to one of the pictures I sent (of an Indian model) to the art department. And when I received the cover, I was actually surprised that she was darker than the very, very white model on my first cover — I’d (cynically, I’ll admit) wondered if they would make her just as lily-white, or leave her out of the cover altogether.

    So although she is lighter than the character, when I received the cover (and especially comparing it to my first) I thought they’d actually made an attempt to show that she was bi-racial (which the character is.)

    Because a visual comparison probably explains better than I can, here it is: http://meljeanbrook.com/savi_cover.jpg

    Original Demon Moon cover, with Demon Angel for comparison (and the skin color I feared Savi would have), one picture of the Indian model I sent in the cover notes, and another picture of the same model with different lighting that I also sent in (which is closer to my mental image of Savi, but I didn’t think to specify that in the cover notes, because they were all pics of the same model. There was another pic where she was even lighter than this, and I used a pic of Halle Berry to describe her hairstyle — and Berry’s skin tone in that pic wasn’t much darker than the skin on the cover, either, so the overall perception in the cover notes probably gave off a lighter image than I’d realized.) And Savi’s hair on the cover is black-black, not brown, which also says Indian to me (and so does the length, even though that totally doesn’t match Savi’s description (for 99% of the book)).

    So although she wasn’t dark enough to match the interior description, I felt as though they’d at least made the attempt to match my cover notes. And, most importantly, I didn’t feel that they’d tried to erase her race and make her white, as they did with the covers above. (Actually, I suspect they took a picture from an existing photo shoot with white models and darkened her skin, sigh.)

    So my perception of the cover creation is probably different than someone who looks at it and sees a lighter woman on the cover than is described (especially after they added that all-over purple wash that canceled out the lovely gold tones in the original cover). My reaction was, “Thank God they made her darker than Lilith.” Now, if my steampunk ends up with a white woman on the cover, then I’ll be complaining.

  51. Robin
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:27:48

    We can argue endlessly about the extent to which race is or isn’t an artificial construction, but clearly Bloomsbury thinks race exists and has effect, or they would not be portraying characters of color as white. Nor would they have changed the Liar cover once people began to protest.

    And if this *isn’t* whitewashing, why don’t we routinely see white characters portrayed as characters of color?

    I don’t think Bloomsbury’s move is an indication of racism on their part, but I think it’s insulting and hugely problematic for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that it perpetuates the otherizing label of skin color for non-white characters represented on covers.

    If Bloomsbury does not want to advertise the book as featuring a protagonist of color, why not just create a cover with NO human image?

    I don’t see this situation as the precise equivalent of a cover image that changes the hair or eye color of a protag, but I do wonder if *those* decisions are made because marketing departments think certain images sell better than others. In which case there might be some equivalency to the race change, although I also think that when race is at issue, the decision has more import, because race is so culturally coded and loaded.

    So what to do, what to do. Among my myriad objections to a plan like that forwarded by Rosyln Holcomb is that on a practical level, Bloomsbury will have no way of knowing that potentially lower sales of one book is really a protest over another book. Publishers don’t even sell directly to consumers, so their spreadsheets won’t contain any of that information, merely sales numbers. Higher sales numbers = more of that thing. At least a general boycott indicates to the publisher that they are doing something wrong, and if retailers and libraries sent that message to Bloomsbury, that would be even better, IMO.

    The sad fact is that boycotts do hurt authors, but if authors want to enlist public participation in protesting a publisher practice, what other options are available to us? Besides a letter writing campaign to the publisher, as Jane suggests. We can encourage our retailers and libraries not to purchase books from Bloomsbury, too, whatever effect that may or may not have.

    I do wish authors would be more proactive in protesting these covers early on. Yeah, I know that authors don’t want to trouble trouble, but it’s authors, not readers, who have a contract relationship with the publisher. The author is an independent contractor, NOT a writer for hire. Is the fear that an author will be dropped for protesting a cover, because that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The idea is that the publisher takes on the author’s book because they believe it will sell, not because the author was a nice person, right?

    Also, just out of curiosity, how many authors stood behind Millenia Black when she sued Penguin for forcing her to change the race of her characters? I mean, didn’t she open the door for authors to band together and make a collective plea to publishers, retailers, and readers alike?

    If authors believe that readers hold the power here, I would suggest that we hold much less power than is believed. It strikes me that the two power players here, besides the publisher, are the author and the retailer/library, since the latter are the true customers of the publisher. And yet I feel more and more responsibility is being shifted to the individual reader, when we have a relatively remote effect both on what is published and how it is published. I don’t know what the solution is, but I guess I don’t really understand why authors like Larbalestier don’t speak up right away.

  52. seressia
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:30:55

    Some people wanted concrete examples…

    No Commitment Required, black heroine white hero, sold very nicely for a book shelved in AA. Sequel had two black characters on the cover. That book hasn’t sold half as well. Reprint of NCR has white torso on the cover, and has outsold the other two books combined. I suppose you could argue that it’s because it was a) mass market, b) a dollar cheaper. Go ahead if it makes you feel better. Three Wishes, white hero black heroine, earned out and then some. sequel was Through the Fire which won an RT award but disappeared and won’t earn out. It has a sunset with a superimposed closeup of a black guy and a girl in braids.

    I have one cover that I strongly objected to. They’d done it as white hero and black heroine when actually the heroine was biracial and the hero black. It was beautiful and did suit the tone of the book, but there would have been some readers who would have been upset with a non-white hero. Luckily it was small press and they changed it. Gorgeous cover, nice chocolate torso. That one won’t earn out either.

    But if they had said, “sorry we can’t change it,” I would have had to lump it, and point out the “mistakes” on my website as I assume these authors did. That’s all an author can do, unless they want to give back the advance and pay the production costs incurred up to that point.

    I’ll try to remember that race is a condition that doesn’t exist the next time I’m mistaken for housekeeping when I’m at a conference. My driver’s license will be up for renewal in GA. Wonder if they’ll let me change my race to white? If all black authors do this, will our books magically move from the AA section? LOL!

  53. Monica
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:40:04

    Bear with me while I clarify all this in my head.

    1) Nonblack authors get to write black protags and are usually NOT segregated into the AA YA book niche, but mainstreamed and marketed to the majority.

    2) The publishers put white characters on their covers because that sells better to nonblack people and they want these NONBLACK author’s books to sell to the majority (even though they wrote black characters. Black authors marketed only to fellow blacks get black folks on the cover, no prob.

    Is that right, so far?

    3) This is perceived as a problem by some. But many commenters say it isn't a problem and has nothing to do with racism. ‘Cause racism doesn’t exist in their world or some such.

    4) Somehow, the problem ISN'T that nonblack authors who write black characters DON'T get thrown into the AA niche along with us, but get preferential treatment.

    The problem is that nonblack authors got inaccurate covers.

    Did I get this all right?

  54. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:46:56

    @seressia: “I'll try to remember that race is a condition that doesn't exist the next time I'm mistaken for housekeeping when I'm at a conference. My driver's license will be up for renewal in GA. Wonder if they'll let me change my race to white? If all black authors do this, will our books magically move from the AA section?”

    See this is why you are the published author, and I only have one chapter written. Yes – that is exactly what I was trying, very inarticulately, and with much beating around the bush, to say.

  55. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:49:58

    Drat, I can’t make the pretty blockquotes work.

  56. Jane
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:52:28

    @Shaheen put <blockquote> at the beginning and then </blockquote> at the end of your quotation

  57. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:53:52

    @Shaheen:

    @A – I notice you mention “Scientific fact” but barely pick up on the historical issues I raised, dismissing race simply as a “social construction.”

    Sorry. Neurotic, antiquated concepts about skin color just don’t get me worked up.

    The historical issues are not relevant to this book cover.

    No one is claiming that racism doesn’t exist. No one is claiming that prejudice has been utilized effectively to inflict harm, directly or not, upon different people. No one “race” can claim exclusive status as perpetrator or as victim of racism/racial prejudice.

    If I sincerely believed the book cover represented an effort to “whitewash” the book’s character and that racial prejudice was a motivation, my opinion would be different.

    Re-hash all the history you want, it doesn’t prove Bloomsbury “doesn’t like dark skin.” When you have proof of the allegation, that’s another matter.

    People have been defining what “dark-skinned” vs. light-skinned is for many, many years.

    So let’s have it. What is “dark-skinned” and why does the cover model not qualify as “dark-skinned” and the other references provided in the book’s quotations?

    As far as I’m concerned, the model is a credible representation. An exact lookalike? No, but a credible representation nonetheless. The heroine is described as “brown” with a “golden glow” (I assume this refers to a yellowy undertone.) The model meets that criteria.

    All too frequently, despite its being simply a matter of “physical appearance and miniscule genetic variation” color/race/ethnicity are twisted together to discriminate against other people – to label them as other, lesser and less desirable.

    All “races” do this. Bloomsbury, a publisher, is not responsible for that. Bloomsbury is responsible for providing cover art for a book and that is what they did.

    That is why this is such a big deal – by refusing to respect the description of the main protagonists of these books as people of color, this publisher is disenfranchising people of color as being worthy of reading about.

    Again, I really do not perceive the model as “white.” She looks multiethnic to me and a credible match to the description provided via the book’s quotes.

    For someone expressing distaste for “paper bag tests” and whatnot, I would think the argument the model isn’t dark enough would be equally objectionable since it implies prejudice against a model not meeting your standard of “dark.” You’re employing the same discrimination of which you complain.

  58. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:54:43

    I wanted to add that just because I’m not convinced of whitewashing in all of the above examples doesn’t mean I don’t think the problem (or racism) exists. As a green eyed blonde, I’ve never been underrepresented, so I don’t know how that feels. I’m trying to understand. As an author, of course I want a cover that sells. For me, ambiguity is fine because my books aren’t about skin color, although many of my characters are not white.

    Anyway, just wanted to thank everyone for the thoughtful comments and Jane for opening up an important discussion.

  59. Maili
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:56:15

    @Meljean Brook: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insight. I really appreciate this, probably more than you may have expected. It’s certainly proved why you’re made of awesome. Thank you.

  60. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:57:31

    @Jane: Thanks for the info and thanks for the edit.

  61. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 14:03:42

    @A:

    Neurotic, antiquated concepts about skin color

    Wow. I’m ….. speechless.

  62. roslynholcomb
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 14:24:38

    Reprint of NCR has white torso on the cover, and has outsold the other two books combined. I suppose you could argue that it's because it was a) mass market, b) a dollar cheaper. Go ahead if it makes you feel better.

    I’ve been meaning to ask you about that one Seressia. As you know I wasn’t allowed to have white male mantitty on my cover for fear that a white person would buy it, discover it actually contained Negro sex and then…I’m not altogether sure what they feared, but presumably it was on level with Armageddon, you know, dogs and cats living together, etc…

    @

    RobinBloomsbury will have no way of knowing that potentially lower sales of one book is really a protest over another book.

    Actually that’s the point of boycotting that book. It’s getting the full Oprah. A boycott of it is bound to draw a helluva lot more attention than boycotting some book where the author is still buying her own bookmarks. The purpose of a boycott is to draw attention AND to hurt the offender’s pocketbook. Trust, we’ll have a lot more impact boycotting their blockbuster, than probably the rest of their inventory for this year.

  63. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 14:28:24

    Okay, I’ve recovered.

    I admit: as a genuinely golden-skinned (i.e. light brown with yellow undertones to be precise) woman with dark brown hair and eyes, I look at the girl on the over of Magic Under Glass and she looks white to me. Not blond and blue-eyed white, but white nonetheless. Perhaps this is my prejudice coming to the fore, just as it does when I see older pictures of Kate Winslet and see a normal sized woman not a fat one, from the perspective of a woman who is not a twig (to put it mildly).

    If you stood me next to my mother – white, English skin (you know, the kind where you can see all the veins really clearly), but with dark brown hair, I would not look white. Standing next to Kate Winslet, Scarlett Johansen or Cameron Diaz, I would not look white. Standing next to Halle Berry, Alicia Keyes or Grace Jones I would not look white. Standing next to Lucy Liu, I would not look white. Perhaps if you took a picture of me and whitewashed it, I would look white – but that would not be a picture of me, would it?

    A sees the history of racial discrimination and racial categorization and seems to want to go for an unidentifiable, unquantifiable “norm,” in which nothing can be categorized or recognized as darker or lighter.

    I see this history and I want to be counted for what I am, and what millions of my sisters and brothers are, whatever they are, without being discriminated against,or looked over, because of that whatever we are. I absolutely do not want my ethnicity to be overlooked as genetically interesting but ultimately unimportant anymore than I want my gender or my sexual orientation to be ignored as irrelevant. We can acknowledge difference without making it derogatory. It does not all have to fade away into irrelevancy.

  64. mythicagirl
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 15:09:30

    @ Shaheen,

    “I look at the girl on the over of Magic Under Glass and she looks white to me. Not blond and blue-eyed white, but white nonetheless”

    That’s odd. I was thinking the very same thing:)

  65. Jane
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 15:12:50

    @mythicagirl: She looks like Keira Knightley to me.

  66. roslynholcomb
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 15:26:13

    @Jane: She looks like Keira Knightley to me as well.

  67. mythicagirl
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 15:26:34

    @Jane:

    Yes, she does resemble Keira. Only I think Keira at least has a spine and a back. I believe this may be photoshopped, but then, I’ve actually been that skinny? small? petite? and didn’t have nearly as much meat on my wrist and arm as the model in the photo (since she’s only showing one). No, my arms were nearly bones as I recall.

  68. Maili
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 16:26:26

    @Shaheen: Yikes. That made me choked up a bit because it’s so familiar to me, and it’s what I feel as well. Thank you for writing that. So well put.

  69. T
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 18:44:14

    My skin is ‘yellow. I'm not ‘dark-skinned', but if I stand next to most of my friends, there's no way that I can be mistaken for white either. I don't believe that race is merely a social construct. Like identifying silt as being from a river because of its textures and color, race is used to identify a combination of features from specific regions of the world. Those features exist, and those features often exist together with high frequency, and those features fall under a ‘race'. Or two or three.

    The social construction comes into play when people add random features into the race that isn't substantiated by science — for example, anyone of black African descent is stupid and violent, or even both. The social construction comes into play when race is then used as a tool to segregate people of certain races — of certain biological features, like a high production of melanin — from others, and think that the action is excusable because you're certain that all black people will rape your wife or all “Mexicans” will ruin your society because they're not paying the damn taxes for all the benefits they get.

    The social constructions come into play when someone who's never spoken to me will ask first if I am Asian and second my name. The social constructions come into play when my classmates ask me first for my help in math and second my name. The social constructions come into play when strangers first ask me if I'm mixed because I'm so TALL for an Asian and second how I'm doing in the check-out line at the grocery store. The social constructions come into play when I, as a child from a primarily Asian, proper household, am not allowed to have a black boyfriend because he's probably going to impregnate me and leave my child and I for dead since he, as a black man, is an uncaring, misogynist, immoral ignoramus.

    That's also race.

    Ethnicity includes culture within its definitions, but race does not. Race is unthinking, indiscriminate stereotyping that is only officially identified with biology. The average person will barely recall gene expression and the randomization in meiosis, or recombinant chromosomes, or the dominance or co-dominance of various alleles, how some will be prevalent over others in many, many generations. The average person will think of ‘dark-skinned', ‘different', ‘racism', ‘African-American' … anything before prophase or chiasma.

    When a cover deliberately ignores the physiological features of a character, it doesn't say, “Hey, genes don't matter.” It says, “Hey, does this cover of a pretty, skinny pale-ish/yellow/white girl appeal to you, masses? Does she interest you? LOOK. SEE. BUY. Why else would I put her on if she didn't appeal?” And subtly, it says that it's ok to have someone on the cover who has, for three hundred years or so, been considered of a superior race instead of a girl who's simply black. Or Asian.

    I'm tired of being defined by my race, and at the same time, I'm tired of not existing without my race either. I'm either Asian and everything that comes with being Asian (memoirs, eastern Asian politics, martial arts, etc), or I'm not even there. I don't think it's ok to shelve black African American authors in a different section in bookstores, and I don't think it's ok to decide that characters don't exist because of their skin or hair … even if it's only on the cover.

    It was in 1965 that the Voting Rights Act was signed. My grandfather was alive then! In 1971, the Supreme Court had to order that students be forcibly desegregated (Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education). Merely thirty-nine years ago.

  70. Angela
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 19:09:08

    Let’s quote Justine Larbalestier (via Millenia Black) for those who say “big deal”:

    Every year at every publishing house, intentionally and unintentionally, there are white-washed covers. Since I've told publishing friends how upset I am with my Liar cover, I have been hearing anecdotes from every single house about how hard it is to push through covers with people of colour on them. Editors have told me that their sales departments say black covers don't sell. Sales reps have told me that many of their accounts won't take books with black covers. Booksellers have told me that they can't give away YAs with black covers. Authors have told me that their books with black covers are frequently not shelved in the same part of the library as other YA-’they're exiled to the Urban Fiction section-’and many bookshops simply don't stock them at all.

    The notion that “black books” don't sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them. Until that happens more often we can't know if it's true that white people won't buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don't sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers.”

    But also, ditto to Monica Jackson.

  71. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 20:59:20

    @Shaheen:

    A sees the history of racial discrimination and racial categorization and seems to want to go for an unidentifiable, unquantifiable “norm,” in which nothing can be categorized or recognized as darker or lighter.

    I see the history of racial categorization and discrimination inherent in all “races” as representative of mass confusion and a an astonishingly backward and base effort to explain physical/cosmetic variations among people.

    “Dark” and “light” certainly exist but they are elastic in nature. If such were not the case, would not everyone here have the same opinion? Would not everyone be able to look at the book cover — or any picture of anybody — and classify them as “dark” or “light” in coloring with everybody making identical classification?

    I say the model on the cover is “dark.” Compared to me and to many other people she is “dark.” That’s my call based on my perception of “light” and “dark.” Are you saying I’m wrong or mistaken? On what criteria do you base my error?

  72. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 21:30:37

    @T:

    I don't believe that race is merely a social construct.

    People are free to believe anything, including vague concepts with no basis in fact.

  73. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 21:51:51

    @Angela:

    Regarding professional assertions that nonwhite book covers don’t sell…I have no information one way or another the allegation is true. I would not reject a book because its cover featured nonwhite characters.

    Many books portraying multiethnic characters have enjoyed success. LKH’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series has enjoyed phenomenal popularity.

    I’d love to read more historicals featuring nonwhite characters — the Regency, the Victorian era, the Belle Epoque, etc.. I’d like paranormals, also (of a non-”blaxploitation” tone and quality)

  74. Bianca
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 23:11:36

    @T: Absolutely perfectly put. Definitely the most sensible post in these comments.

  75. Shaheen
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 23:29:14

    @A: Tell me A – do you get ticketed often for driving through red lights and stopping on green lights? After all these are only different bands of light on the spectrum – a difference that is hard to detect by the color-blind – so what’s the real difference between them?

    Since you seem to feel free to imply that my experiences of race, and those of Maili,T, Monica, seressia etc., not to mention those of many if not most of the African-American, Asian-American (both East Asian and South Asian), and Native Americans in this country today, are merely neurotic, antiquated concepts representative of mass confusion, are scientifically irrelevant and therefore elastic in nature, I therefore feel free to say: Yes, you are wrong. You are mistaken. Your perception is erroneous. The cover models in the far left and far right covers are not darker-skinned they are lighter skinned – in fact they are white, as characterized by the socially recognized physical features that we identify as white.
    In an earlier post you said “What are the odds of finding a “perfect match” for a model/photo of a “nappy-headed (bi-racial) tomboy?” Gee, let me think. Well let’s start by avoiding the long smooth straight hair first shall we? Are there no “nappy-headed” models out there? Would it be so hard to find one? Really?

  76. A
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 23:37:48

    http://academic.udayton.edu/race/01race/race.htm

    By . . .”biological race,” I mean the view of race espoused by Judge Tucker, and still popular today, that there exist natural, physical divisions among humans that are hereditary, reflected in morphology, and roughly but correctly captured by terms like Black, White, and Asian (or Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid). Under this view, one’s ancestors and epidermis ineluctably determine membership in a genetically defined racial group. The connection between human physiognomy and racial status is concrete; in Judge Tucker’s words, every individual’s race has been “stampt” by nature. . . .[D]espite the prevalent belief in biological races, overwhelming evidence proves that race is not biological. Biological races like Negroid and Caucasoid simply do not exist. [A]. . . newly popular [argument] among several scholars, [is] that races are wholly illusory, whether as a biological or social concept. Under this thinking, if there is no natural link between faces and races, then no connection exists.

    There are no genetic characteristics possessed by all Blacks but not by non- Blacks; similarly, there is no gene or cluster of genes common to all Whites but not to non-Whites. One’s race is not determined by a single gene or gene cluster, as is, for example, sickle cell anemia. Nor are races marked by important differences in gene frequencies, the rates of appearance of certain gene types. The data compiled by various scientists demonstrates, contrary to popular opinion, that intra-group differences exceed inter-group differences. That is, greater genetic variation exists within the populations typically labeled Black and White than between these populations. This finding refutes the supposition that racial divisions reflect fundamental genetic differences.

    Notice this does not mean that individuals are genetically indistinguishable from each other, or even that small population groups cannot be genetically differentiated. Small populations, for example the Xhosa or the Basques, share similar gene frequencies. However, differentiation is a function of separation, usually geographic, and occurs in gradations rather than across fractures.. .. . . The notion that humankind can be divided along White, Black, and Yellow lines reveals the social rather than the scientific origin of race. The idea that there exist three races, and that these races are “Caucasoid,” “Negroid,” and “Mongoloid,” is rooted in the European imagination of the Middle Ages, which encompassed only Europe, Africa, and the Near East.. . Nevertheless, the history of science has long been the history of failed efforts to justify these social beliefs. Along the way, various minds tried to fashion practical human typologies along the following physical axes: skin color, hair texture, facial angle, jaw size, cranial capacity, brain mass, frontal lobe mass, brain surface fissures and convolutions, and even body lice. As one scholar notes, “[t]he nineteenth century was a period of exhaustive and–as it turned out–futile search for criteria to define and describe race differences.”. . . Attempts to define racial categories by physical attributes ultimately failed. By 1871, some leading intellectuals had recognized that even using the word “race” “was virtually a confession of ignorance or evil intent.” The genetic studies of the last few decades have only added more nails to the coffin of biological race. Evidence shows that those features usually coded to race, for example, stature, skin color, hair texture, and facial structure, do not correlate strongly with genetic variation. . . The rejection of race in science is now almost complete. In the end, we should embrace historian Barbara Fields’s succinct conclusion with respect to the plausibility of biological races: “Anyone who continues to believe in race as a physical attribute of individuals, despite the now commonplace disclaimers of biologists and geneticists, might as well also believe that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy are real, and that the earth stands still while the sun moves.”

  77. Shaheen
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 00:01:41

    @A: And anyone who continues to believe that race is irrelevant, despite copious historical and social evidence to the contrary is an unseeing fool.

    The difference between us A, is that you continually run to shield behind science to prove that race is not real and does not matter, while I feel very strongly that race, like religion, is not always “scientifically” quantifiable but most certainly is societally functional. The way a person looks is determined by their ancestry. A person of predominantly African heritage is usually darker skinned and has different physical features than one of predominantly European heritage. We may all be human under the skin, but the race into which we are born often determines the way in which we are treated in the society in which we live.

    I am not claiming that I as a South Asian am an alien from Mars, while you as an Anglo-Saxon are a human, I am claiming, in fact I am stating, that often, because of my South Asian heritage I am “treated” as a lesser human, or an alien, by those of Anglo-Saxon descent. It does not matter how many ways you spin this or how many “scientific” explanations you use to brush out the past, race is an undeniable factor in our society today which determines the way certain members of society are perceived in the wider culture.

    And by the way, I am really tired of the way you keep harping on biology as if that is the only science out there. Human and social sciences are also valid ways of understanding the world, and they go rather farther when one is trying to understand society, history, and human psychology.

  78. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 01:21:32

    @Shaheen:

    @A: And anyone who continues to believe that race is irrelevant, despite copious historical and social evidence to the contrary is an unseeing fool.

    As I said earlier:

    A’s post 42
    I have not said the artificial condition of “race” does not matter; I have said “race” is an artificial condition constructed by society. There is demonstrated social impact directly related to belief in “race.”

    The hysteria over the “not dark enough” book cover is a prime example.

    The difference between us A, is that you continually run to shield behind science to prove that race is not real and does not matter…

    1. Providing credible academic sources validating my argument is not “running and shielding.” From whom should I be running and shielding, anyway? Is this a subtle admission of attack on your part?

    If so, bring it. I’m not worried. Beauty and Truth are on my side. I’ve told the truth, that 1) race is artificial, a social construction with no biological basis and that 2) belief in race has produced harmful effects upon society.

    because of my South Asian heritage I am “treated” as a lesser human, or an alien, by those of Anglo-Saxon descent…

    I have been treated “differently” (as in rudely, disrespectfully, hatefully, or indifferently) by people not of my “racial identity,” too.

    I dismiss such people for what they are. Racial bias and hatred are common among people of lower socioeconomic status, inferior education, and social maladjustment. Some research has indicated racism may be symptomatic of mental illness.

    Now, if it makes you feel validated, I’m sorry “white” people have mistreated you. I’m sorry “nonwhite” people have mistreated me. But the truth is, I have too much going for me to give too much time and energy to socially maladjusted, uneducated people who believe in “race” and believe “race” justifies their maladjusted behavior. I have too much going for me to go into vapors because a book cover model is “too light,” “too dark,” or in possession of some other deficiency.

    If you want to do that yourself, fine. Everybody makes choices. Just keep in mind the level and the quality of the personalities with whom you equate yourself with such attitudes.

    It does not matter how many ways you spin this or how many “scientific” explanations you use to brush out the past,

    I am not “spinning this” so many ways. Reread this blog. My responses have remained consistent on the issue in question.

    And what does “brushing out the past” have to do with anything? The topic of this blog is “Is Bloomsbury Hanging Out the “Whites Only” Sign?” Bloomsbury’s creative decisions concerning book cover art are related to preparing presentable books attractive to the books’ target audience. Nothing more. Historical issues concerning “race” are not relevant.

    I am really tired of the way you keep harping on biology

    That’s not my problem.

  79. Kevin Nelson
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 01:23:35

    It’s hard to be sure what went on with any one particular cover. Publishers are just plain careless with cover art sometimes; a phrase like “dark skinned” is pretty vague; and so on. So I can sort of understand if some people thought Jane overreacted. Personally I’d give the publisher the benefit of the doubt at least on Magic Under Glass.

    But this “whites on cover” thing isn’t limited to just a handful of books. It’s a pattern that has happened over and over again. Even if there’s some doubt in any one case, the overall pattern is crystal clear.

    And if you think that’s no big deal, I ask you to imagine things being reversed. It might be too hard to imagine the racial situation being reversed. So just think of some group you belong to that you feel sort of gets looked down on. Maybe it’s your line of work that doesn’t get a whole lot of respect, maybe it’s your religious group, maybe it’s where you live–just think of anything. Now imagine that people in your group are underrepresented in just about everything, from Congress to corporate boards to college faculty. Now finally imagine that when there are books about people in your group, publishers keep on using cover art that appears designed to hide that fact. Don’t you think you’d be less than thrilled?

    I wish the problem would go away overnight, but it won’t. The best I can say is that people should keep pushing on all fronts. Email the publishers, talk to the local bookstore managers, even just mention the issue to your friends. We’re becoming a more and more diverse country over time, and sooner or later the publishing industry will have to face that.

  80. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 02:51:04

    @Kevin Nelson:

    But this “whites on cover” thing isn't limited to just a handful of books. It's a pattern that has happened over and over again. Even if there's some doubt in any one case, the overall pattern is crystal clear.

    In Junior High, my English class interviewed Richard Peck, a popular author of YA novels, after we’d completed a reading assignment of his work. I’d selected “Secrets of the Shopping Mall” for my assignment and I recall Peck mentionning the cover art bugged him because his protagonists, Theresa and Barnie, are portrayed as “white” on the cover and in his mind, Peck perceived the characters as “black.”

    Ironically, the book has been reprinted and the new cover still features “white” kids.

    In all frankness, though, I’d read the book and I recalled no inferences to the characters’ appearance — not even the most general things, except for Barnie being short and slight and build (small enough for some bullies to shut him up in his locker.) So there was no inconsistency where the book referenced the children being a particular skin tone or what have you that conflicted with the cover art. If Peck himself hadn’t told me, I’d have never known.

    I can’t say this impacted me in a negative way, even back then.

    I think many factors figure into the “race portrayal discrepancy,” but I am skeptical as to racism being a primary factor since cover art discrepancy is quite common even in works NOT including “nonwhite” characters.

  81. Kevin Nelson
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 04:26:25

    @A:

    I think many factors figure into the “race portrayal discrepancy,” but I am skeptical as to racism being a primary factor since cover art discrepancy is quite common even in works NOT including “nonwhite” characters

    I agree that cover art discrepancy is common in general. That’s one reason why I may give the benefit of the doubt in particular cases.

    But how often does the discrepancy run the other way? How often has a book talked about a light-skinned character and then gotten cover art that could be questioned for showing someone too dark-skinned? I have never seen one single example of that. Sometime, somewhere, maybe it’s happened–but it sure isn’t common.

    This sort of reminds me of how it used to be common for white actors to put on dark makeup and play nonwhite characters. If only that had gone the other way sometimes, people wouldn’t have been so bothered by it. It took a while, but Hollywood finally got its act together on this issue. Hopefully publishers will do likewise.

  82. Angela
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 07:43:27

    @A:

    A,take yourself out of the equation. You, as I, and many other commenters on this blog, would not turn away from a book with non-white models on the cover, but ask around about the sales numbers for romances with non-white models on the covers. Hell, Jade Lee, who publishes with Harlequin Blaze (a category line which is guaranteed to be in all stores), released a romance with two Asian models on the cover. It’s well known that most readers buy all the books in each H/S line every month. Yet, with the full, complete backing of Harlequin, readers did not flock to Lee’s book.

    As for books with multi-ethnic characters:

    1) they are written by white authors who are never segregated or not ordered by booksellers.

    2) These multi-ethnic characters are never featured on covers.

    3) Anita Blake is not a good example. Not only is Anita culturally white (though LKH said she was half Mexican), but the majority of the characters are white, to my recollection. A better example would be L.A. Banks, a black author of paranormal, who is successful, but not AS successful as her white counterparts who released books after she burst on the scene.

    As for

    I'd love to read more historicals featuring nonwhite characters -’ the Regency, the Victorian era, the Belle Epoque, etc.. I'd like paranormals, also (of a non-”blaxploitation” tone and quality)

    I would too, but the market dictates what is published. Beverly Jenkins is the only black writer who consistently produces AA historical romances. Jade Lee recently shelved her historical romances which featured Chinese characters. In the greater scheme of things, historical romances with non-whites are considered a niche readership.

    I know you say you are published, and I don’t know whether it’s e-published or with NY, but I find it strange how adamant you insist that you don’t know or haven’t heard any talk from your fellow published authors and your agent and editor, about the details that go into producing a book and getting it into bookstores (ie, the decision of what a cover will look like, the title, and the cover copy).

    This situation is so much more than complaining that your hero was blond and the cover model was a brunette, or that your heroine is decidedly voluptuous, but the woman on the cover is modelesque. Or why there aren’t any bald cover models, or ones with mustaches and beards. Those are all instances of readers possessing a generic preference for what they consider to be attractive.

    In no way shape, measure, or form, can the absence of people of color on book covers be considered similar. There is a whole ‘nother thought process occurring within the minds of an average reader when they see Jade Lee’s The Concubine, or a book by Monica Jackson. It is not “I don’t find blond men attractive,” or “I don’t want to see chunky women in clinch poses”–it is “I don’t find a romance between two Asian people or two black people an interesting, desirable, intriguing topic” simply based on the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, the shape of their eyes.

    The way race is constructed is that white is the default, and that it is essentially “raceless”–meaning that you can easily slip into the mind/body of a white character in a way you can’t if the character’s skin is described as mocha, or if their normal meal is the Thai take-out you splurge on when you want to eat something “exotic.” When a reader sees a non-white person on the cover, their mind immediately says “Other” and judges accordingly, most likely dredging up any stereotype they have of that particular race/ethnicity. Now, I’m not saying people of color are immune to this sort of judgment, because there are readers of color who would pass over romances with people of color, but the majority of publishing is in the hands of white Americans, the majority of booksellers are white, and the majority of romance readers are white. Since the industry lives and dies by numbers, they feel no need to either cater to non-white readers or treat fiction written by and about non-whites (unless penned by a white author) the same.

    What stands is that authors of color are not on equal footing as their white (or those who choose to write white characters) counterparts, and white-washing cover models contributes to that grave injustice. It contributes to the notion that a person of color is either the “Other” or they are invisible, and that it is their proper place in life.

  83. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 08:38:38

    It has also occurred to me, while following this thread, that when people of color are fetishized (as seems to be the case in Delilah Devlin’s Knight of My Dreams), the covers are unambiguous. Jane’s review quotes that the villain/sex witch/whatever is a dark-skinned woman. The cover clearly reflects that.

    I’m thinking that this adds to the “otherness” and unbalanced representation.

  84. Maili
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 09:08:18

    @Jill Sorenson: You have no idea how happy I am to read your response, considering a fact no one had to point that out in this thread (it’s a sensitive old issue). Your observation is, IMO, correct.

    I’m happy because after your earlier comments, I filed you under “ah, one of those who don’t get it. what a pity” and, I admit, arched my eyebrow sceptically when you said you’d listen and consider.

    I didn’t think you would because I’d heard it before from other authors, who either disappeared or held onto their views, but you’ve proved me wrong. I’m very happy about that. :) Thank you.

  85. katiebabs
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 09:52:05

    I would really like to know if there is a scientific study or hard proof somewhere by these pubs that a white face on a cover sells more books, especially for children and teens.

    I’m Caucasian and find this very insulting as well as the publishers that continue to turn their backs, thinking the readers won’t care because it will eventually die down.

    I hate the idea of boycotting, but what else can be done to really make the pubs stand up and take notice?

  86. Maili
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 10:03:51

    @katiebabs: Oh, I’m boycotting Jaclyn Dolamore’a book. And all her future books.

    She’s made an official post today about the debate. After making comments she was disappointed, she’s officially backed down and played safe.

    WTF? Don’t want to piss your publisher off? Don’t have a POC in your story, then!

    She has NO idea how “lucky” she is, having that luxury of having a book with a POC character as heroine and NOT see her book being assigned to a “Ooo, Look! A Special Shelf for Them People!” shelf in a dark corner of a bookshop.

    She’s part of the problem now. That’s the official reason why I’m boycotting her book(s).

  87. katiebabs
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 10:10:07

    @Maili:

    Why would she want to make waves? She is new published and probably feels if she has a stance, she’ll get punished. Again, those who cut you your paycheck have a lot of power, especially if they are allowing you to live “your dream” or giving you a nice income.

  88. Jane
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 10:12:19

    @Maili Dude, me too. Author clearly cares more about her relationship with her publisher than what readers like Ari have to say. She wants to profit off of having people of color in her books but doesn’t want to even acknowledge that there is an issue regarding representation.

    Like you said, she has the luxury of writing about people of color without the stigma of being a writer of color and thus, here she has the best of both worlds. She gets to write about how she embraces diversity and acceptance but she doesn’t have to actually suffer any of the consequences for it.

    Why should readers stand up for her when she’s not willing to stand up for them?

  89. Angela
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 10:20:49

    @Jane: Hear, here.

  90. Polly
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 10:51:34

    @Maili and Jane

    Count me as three. I just took a look at the comments on her blog to her statement on the cover, and it’s full of people commiserating that her new book got hijacked by people with agendas. Argh!

    If color and discrimination, otherness, acceptance etc are major themes in the book, how is it not totally disingenuous for the author to not at least acknowledge her readers’ concerns? All aside from how wishy-washy her statement is (it’s a book about love and acceptance, look beyond the cover to the inside message of diversity). You don’t get to take a major issue (and I’d say discrimination and otherness, especially in a YA novel are widely accepted as major issues regardless of place or setting) and then be shocked and appalled by the fallout, or hide behind the genre (it’s a fantasy, not modern earth).

  91. Lane
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 11:10:59

    @A:

    If race is indeed a merely social construct, with no phenotypical validity, how and why are forensic anthropologists able to identify the primary racial identity in the majority of cases? Why is this a standard procedure in cold murder cases when authorities are attempting to identify remains?

  92. roslynholcomb
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 11:21:04

    I would’ve had a lot more respect for old girl if she’d simply said “Yanno, brown people on covers don’t make money and I really want to make money. I need to earn out my advance. Yeah, I like the cachet of writing about people of color, but dude, I can’t take the hit financially of having real live brown people on my cover.”

    Yeah, this is very encouraging to us real live people of color who just happen to write books about people of color. I think it’s interesting that publishers know that brown is the kiss of death as far as sales, but they insist that black authors put black people on the cover of their books. Is this a deliberate machination to minimize sales of black books? One would think they’d be doing exactly the opposite. Most peculiar mama, most peculiar.

  93. Robin
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 12:07:42

    Count me in as someone who won’t by buying Dolamore’s book thanks to both her LJ comments on the cover issue AND her unwillingness to step in and pull back that person in the comments who tried to shoo away the first critical commenter.

    I realize that I’m just not sympathetic to the ‘I’ll go along with anything that allows my book to sell’ mindset. And I find Dolamore’s position incredibly insulting to authors of color who are writing characters of color and don’t have the luxury of ‘passing’.

  94. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 12:32:29

    @Jane
    She wants to profit off of having people of color in her books but doesn't want to even acknowledge that there is an issue regarding representation.

    If I write a character, or draw one, I own that character and I am that character. Whether white, black, asian, I will learn about your culture and address issues, and not say, my writing or drawing speaks for itself. Because I got into all this after reading Ari’s post.
    Who hasn’t felt like she’s felt? And I wasn’t sure what I could do about it, but I wanted to do something. I mean, what if we were all up in arms about Domestic Violence or breast cancer, do you think anyone would write “My writing speaks for itself on domestic violence” Hell to the Naw. But as soon as we mention race, its the subject that must not be addressed too loudly.

    I heard Ari’s plea. So did many of you who were kind enough to put the post on your blogs or even stay on this thread to lurk or jump into this conversation. It’s not about us. It’s for kids like Ari and all the teens (gay, straight, bi, all races and nationalities) who love books. Thanks, for allowing me to vent.

  95. seressia
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 12:45:28

    Not on topic, but ironic to me, last night Comedy Central showed the David Chappelle episode in which they had a “race draft.” Blacks took Tiger Woods (another irony there) whites took Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice, and Asians took the Wu Tang Clan.

    Back on topic, I wonder if James Patterson would be the juggernaut he is today if his Alex Cross books had a black guy with a gun on the cover?

  96. roslynholcomb
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 12:49:39

    @seressia: Or if he’d been relegated to the Negro section with the rest of us…Negroes.

  97. Publishing Jim Crow Yeah, I’m Going There Again « the one who writes
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 12:56:01

    [...] we’ve all heard the latest brouhaha about the whitewashing of a book cover. According to the powers that be in publishing brown folks [...]

  98. Sunita
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:15:35

    And now Bloomsbury is pulling the US edition until they have a new book jacket (via comments on Dolamore’s LJ):

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

    I wonder what the author’s response will be. She’s certainly received a huge amount of publicity without having to do anything, let alone take a risky position.

  99. Lane
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:18:35

    @Shaheen:

    For a whole lot of examples of minorites being replaced by Caucasians in fiction, which is not exclusive to romance, check out tvtrope’s Racelift page

    I would argue that the behavior’s widespread effect is its own argument regarding the damage caused. Individually, such incidents may not be harmful to all individuals. That does not mean that it does not re-enforce the negative ‘social construct’ aspects of race, nor should the harm that is caused by the incident be dismissed.

  100. Polly
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:18:52

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

    “Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of Magic Under Glass. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly.”

  101. Sunita
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:21:42

    @seressia: I’d forgotten about the black draft! How I miss Dave Chappelle.

    And my guess is that a black Alex Cross would either have been (a) too black for the average reader, or (b) not black enough and therefore a sellout because if you’re black, then that has to be everything you’re about.

    I mean, think about Easy Rawlins. Somehow Walter Mosley got tagged as highbrow and niche even though they’re just intelligently conceived, beautifully written mysteries that evoke a strong sense of time and place.

  102. Jane
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:24:28

    @Sunita: to borrow a term from Robin, I feel like readers are being gaslighted. Perhaps we are being subject to some crazy promotional ploy.

  103. Robin
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:25:30

    Well, I’m impressed that Bloombsbury’s making the change. Do you think third time will be a charm and they’ll simply make the next cover properly representative?

  104. katiebabs
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:25:49

    But changing a cover would cost Bloomsbury a great deal of money on their end?

  105. Robin
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:28:07

    @Sunita: I’m cracking up a little, because from my POV, Dolamore’s public statement was a risky position — in that it put me right off the book. ;p

    @Jane: I figure that because the Dolamore cover predated the Liar cover, Bloomsbury is in earnest. But let’s face it: it’s usually easier for me to believe the cynical explanation, so we’ll see as this plays out over the next few days.

  106. Sunita
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:29:09

    @Robin: Nah, I’m betting floral cover on the next one. Or abstract.

    Jane: I don’t think we’re being gaslighted, I think that it didn’t occur to her that writing a non-white character and then having a white cover model would be a problem for anyone. Lots of people these days think they’re being enlightened by setting their characters in non-white settings without understanding any of the responsibility that comes with such a choice.

  107. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:29:48

    @Polly:

    Thanks for the link Polly.

    Well, it’s about time. It only took them how many days to finally come up with a solution?

    What, how many meetings did they have to have before thinking, wow, we really need to act on this and put safeguards into effect so this won’t happen again (like read the doggone book)

    But wait, does this mean the girl on the cover isn’t just light brown? Does this mean “Gasp” she’s actually…white?

    Stay tuned folks

  108. Jane
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:31:16

    @Robin: Ironic. You are always the more cynical of the two of us. Maybe your cynicism is rubbing off on me.

    One thing I have learned from this is that it is important for us to point out the cover discrepancies when we see them. I’ll be paying a much closer eye to covers than I have in the past although I remember when I read Paradise Rules by Beth Kery, I appreciated the effort made to put multi ethnic characters on the cover even if it didn’t really match how I perceived the characters described. At least it wasn’t Kiera Knightley!

  109. Jane
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:32:34

    @mythicagirl: they’ll probably come back with another cover without a person. Avoids the risk entirely. Although I read somewhere that it looked like a Gemma Doyle cover and maybe that was intentional by the publisher? I.e., if you like Libba Bray, this one is just like it, without the cows.

  110. Polly
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:32:57

    I wonder how Bloomsbury’s decision will reflect on the author, and vice versa, considering this decision comes a day after the author posted a response basically saying, calm down, folks, focus on the story and not the cover. I also wonder when publishers inform authors if they decide to make changes like this one. Do they even tell the author first? Any of you published authors care to elaborate? Thanks.

  111. Sunita
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:33:08

    @Robin: Risky in terms of our minority position, though, not in terms of the majority. I do agree that most people are resigned to the disconnect between covers models and what’s inside the book. And most people don’t want to think about things that make them uncomfortable. Put that together and I’m betting a lot of people wouldn’t care.

    Also, maybe I too am being cynical, but now that Bloomsbury has done this twice (changed the covers), let’s see if they stick with appropriate cover models. If it *does* depress sales, then I’m guessing they’ll split the difference with non-human covers. But maybe not. And YA *should* be the market that is least susceptible to being put off by non-white covers.

  112. Sunita
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:39:43

    @Meljean Brook: I wanted to respond yesterday but got sidetracked.

    Meljean, it is not all surprising to me that a South Asian cover model would be extremely fair, relatively speaking. Good luck finding a model in a magazine (or an actress who isn’t from the south, for that matter) that is not light skinned. Definitely not European-type white, because the skin tone is a different color. But South Asians have pretty strong color hierarchies, and light is considered prettier and more acceptable than dark.

    Moreover, your heroine was portrayed as real-world Indian, not made-up-country Indian-equivalent, so she could have blue or green eyes and still be entirely “authentic.” She could look like an East or Southeast Asian and still be authentic. As I’m sure you already know.

    Thanks for taking the time to explain the process, though. And FWIW, I think your covers rock.

  113. Polly
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:40:10

    @Sunita

    Not only is YA one of the markets that should be least susceptible to being put off by non-white covers, I think it’s one where publishers have the most responsibility to be careful about covers and images. Not that everyone else is off the hook, but something aimed at kids and teens is especially powerful.

  114. Linkspam_mod
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 14:05:10

    Your post has been included in a Linkspam roundup

  115. Robin
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 14:09:26

    @Sunita: Oh, no, I get it. It’s just interesting because I’m so rarely put off a book by what an author says off-page, but wowza, that LJ statement struck me as worse than if she had just kept silent.

    I realize that it’s frustrating (and I agree with Jane that it’s time for me to make a conscious habit of publicly commenting on these covers in all genres when I see them), because not all white authors (perhaps not even the majority) see themselves as “representing” people of color when they write non-white characters.

    But at some level I agree with Jane that if you want to profit from representing a character of another race, you can’t be surprised when people get upset by a whitewashed cover. Not that I think authors need to be activists, but I think Dolamore could have made a different kind of statement, one that didn’t necessarily chasten Bloomsbury but acknowledged the importance of the issue beyond, ‘I know some people feel this way.’

    I was frustrated with Larbalestier, too, because at first she posted her cover with positive comments about how beautiful it was, then only after the fuss started did she speak out.

    I admit that I don’t fully understand why authors have so much fear of publishers, but I think that’s somewhat different from the question of whether authors have any additional responsibilities when they write about people of different races, ethnicities, sexualities, etc.

  116. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 14:55:20

    @Lane:

    @A:

    If race is indeed a merely social construct, with no phenotypical validity, how and why are forensic anthropologists able to identify the primary racial identity in the majority of cases? Why is this a standard procedure in cold murder cases when authorities are attempting to identify remains?

    http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/GeneWatch/GeneWatchPage.aspx?pageId=59&archive=yes

    AIMs-based technologies, like DNAWitness, are attempts to model human history from a specifically American perspective to infer present-day humans’ continental origins.7 Such inferences are based on the extent to which any subject or sample shares a panel of alleles (or variants of alleles) that code for genomic function, such as malaria resistance, UV protection, lactose digestion, skin pigmentation, etc. There is a range of such traits that are conserved in, and shared between, different peoples and populations around the globe for evolutionary, adaptive, migratory, and cultural reasons. To assume that people who share, or rather co-possess, these traits can necessarily be ‘diagnosed’ with a specific source ancestry is misleading. Not only will siblings often share the same profile-or not-but individuals from all four ‘parental’ continental groups offered up by the model could feasibly share similar profiles-or not. As a forensics market version of the AIMs technology, DNAWitness may offer precise mathematical ancestry percentages, but the accuracy of that precision remains debatable.

    At best, this technology is an experimental modeling tool that hopes to mimic recent American human history as it reconstructs four racial types through an artificial homogenizing of markers found with relatively higher frequencies on some continents and lower frequencies on others. As compelling a tool as DNAWitness may seem, investigators should require that DNA analyses used in the serious proceedings of law be falsifiable, reliable, and thoroughly vetted. Anything less would prove irresponsible if incorporated into criminal investigations.

  117. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 15:02:03

    http://www.shabtis.com/Tutcloseup.php

    Let’s all complain to ancient Egyptians for whitewashing shabti.

  118. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 15:05:41

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/11/photogalleries/king_tut/

    Maybe if we all hold our breaths and complain really loudly and send hate mail to Egypt, the nation will remove this unsightly white bust and replace it with a more realistic version of King Tutankhamen’s “real color” (whatever that is.)

  119. C
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 15:15:47

    Okay, if Bloomsbury were “whitewashing” then they would have more whitewashed covers than the two you mentioned. They publish hundreds of books a year yet only two have been subject of controversy. So which other BLOOMSBURY titles feature a white person on the cover of a book with a POC MC?

  120. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 15:44:50

    @Robin:

    Count me in as someone who won't by buying Dolamore's book thanks to both her LJ comments on the cover issue AND her unwillingness to step in and pull back that person in the comments who tried to shoo away the first critical commenter.

    I realize that I'm just not sympathetic to the ‘I'll go along with anything that allows my book to sell' mindset. And I find Dolamore's position incredibly insulting to authors of color who are writing characters of color and don't have the luxury of ‘passing'.

    I’ve ordered the book to offset your lost sale, although quite honestly I had zero interest in this book before all the racists started complaining about the cover.

  121. seressia
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 15:56:28

    shabatis and that bust were made of alabaster. If you’ve viewed Tut’s collection, either when it was traveling here or in Cairo, there are other representations of the young king, including images on his tomb showing him in more earth tone colors.

    This argument is like saying white men should be mad because Michaelangelo’s David (made out of marble) doesn’t show the right pigment for white people.

    Next.

  122. Mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:08:39

    @A
    Maybe if we all hold our breaths and complain really loudly and send hate mail to Egypt, the nation will remove this unsightly white bust and replace it with a more realistic version of King Tutankhamen's “real color” (whatever that is.)

    Who is “We?”
    Hell, it wouldn’t be you. You’ve been trying to turn this thread into “it’s all about A” and now you’re pissed. I’m happy for kids like Ari. It’s about them A, not you and your agenda.

    Still trying to bait I see. Go ahead, flame on out.

  123. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:10:38

    @Robin:

    But at some level I agree with Jane that if you want to profit from representing a character of another race, you can't be surprised when people get upset by a whitewashed cover.

    A short while ago, DA featured this guest blog, http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/10/27/a-special-guest-post-on-cultural-appropriation-by-handyhunter/ .

    handyhunter criticized romance authors and readers for lack of diversity and multiculturalism.

    It looks to me like Bloomsbury and Dolomore attempted to address that lack and got slapped in the face for it due to cover art that didn’t “fit” racist interpretations of what “dark-skinned” means.

    I wonder if the author will even bother to continue the series after this. It might be more to her taste to “play it safe” and write white characters in order to avoid controversy and not offend entitlement-minded racists and colorists.

    I wonder if other authors or aspiring authors follow this blog and find themselves questionning if writing multicultural books is worth the potential hassles and controversies related to racial profiling of cover art. Who knows? Authors could be putting down manuscripts right now because of this. Books the public will never see, “whitewashed” cover art or no.

  124. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:16:52

    @seressia: @Mythicagirl:

    shabatis and that bust were made of alabaster. If you've viewed Tut's collection, either when it was traveling here or in Cairo, there are other representations of the young king, including images on his tomb showing him in more earth tone colors.

    This argument is like saying white men should be mad because Michaelangelo's David (made out of marble) doesn't show the right pigment for white people.

    Next.

    The shabti is made of wood, not of alabaster. A very meticulous piece.

    Next.

  125. Polly
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:21:08

    @A

    It’s actually the author’s response (or rather, what I saw as a lack of a strong response) that bothered me more than the cover. I was of two minds about the cover–while to me, the cover model looks like a white (not lily-white, but still white) girl shot in evening light, I recognized that most authors don’t get a lot of say in their covers. I thought, “Well, it could be worse; she could be blonde.” And, after all, I also recognize that there’s a wide range of skin tones outside of peaches and cream, not just outside of Europe, but even within Europe, and that “dark skin” and “light skin” are subjective categories, not objective chromatic standards. Granted, I do think repeated descriptions of “dark skin” merit a bit more darkness than twilight lighting, but I wouldn’t, on that basis, judge the book by its cover (har de har har).

    I was far more concerned with what seemed to me the disingenuous stance of the author once people started complaining or expressing concerns. She’s writing a book about a social outsider, whose outside status is visibly demonstrable by her skin tone, among other identifiers. Belonging, otherness, acceptance–if these are all major themes of the novel, it seemed to me that she could have responded more definitively to readers–especially from the target young adult audience–troubled by what they saw as a hurtful discrepancy between the message of the book, and its visible, public face. I don’t think saying that it’s a fantasy that doesn’t map directly onto our society sufficiently addresses the issue, nor does saying, just look beyond the cover. To me, the message that sends is, “yes, your issues are valid, but only in print. Just ignore the picture that will form the first impression you or anyone else has of my book.”

  126. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:26:20

    @Mythicagirl:

    I'm happy for kids like Ari. It's about them A, not you and your agenda.

    What agenda? I am not accusing a publisher of “hanging out “Whites Only” Sign” without a shred of evidence to back my claim. I am not endorsing obvious racist/colorist sentiments concerning physical appearance.

    If rejecting racism is “agenda,” I’ll happily cop to having that agenda, but I’ve repeatedly asked Jane and others to prove the assertions made in the blog, and to define “dark-skinned” in a concrete, non-racist fashion.

    Supporting racism and racist sentiments just isn’t my thing. It’s the “thing” of socially maladjusted and poorly educated individuals.

  127. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:26:23

    @A

    Yeah, you’re good and pissed. LOL
    Anyway, gee I can’t want until Ari comes home from school and realizes her voice was heard. Oh how that kid has mobilized blogs and others on the internet to her side. She even posted on Jacklyn D’s blog, that’s how thoughtful of a teen she is.

  128. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:30:07

    @mythicagirl:

    @A

    Yeah, you're good and pissed. LOL

    Er, not really. But I can see how a person supporting and enabling racism in a younger generation might take comfort in the prospect.

  129. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:30:15

    @A

    Awww, now you’re just baiting to try and get the thread comments closed. Gee A, I’m not calling you names, why so stressed? Do you always act like this when people don’t follow your…agendas?
    Tell me…when did all this resentment start?
    I’m here to help. Really.

  130. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:33:32

    @mythicagirl:

    I can't want until Ari comes home from school and realizes her voice was heard. Oh how that kid has mobilized blogs and others on the internet to her side. She even posted on Jacklyn D's blog, that's how thoughtful of a teen she is.

    I’m sure it’s gratifying and empowering to any racist who wants to post a “Darks Only” sign on a book. : )

  131. seressia
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:55:31

    Then I suppose you’ve only seen that one shabati, whereas I’ve seen hundreds, in wood, alabaster (mostly alabaster, like the canopic jars) and some gold and other precious metals. One of the Nubian pharaohs had more than 300 alabaster shabati in his tomb to do his bidding in the afterlife. That was part of an awesome collection highlighting the Nubian rulers of Egypt that was here at the Carlos Museum on Emory University’s campus. And the Tut exhibit came through here last year as well.

    I suppose horses could get mad that Remington put them in bronze. Or the Chinese could get up in arms over the emperor and his terra cotta warriors (saw those too)

    But I’m done feeding you. Writing calls. The last book of my Shadowchasers series features the Book of the Dead, Set, Ammit, and of course Isis and Ma’at continue to make their presence known to my hero and heroine. I love researching ancient Egypt!

    (edited for typos)

  132. Maili
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 17:02:02

    @katiebabs:

    I reacted poorly to her official stand because I felt it was a public message to YA readers like Ari that the author’s career counted more than her book cover, e.g. what Ari sees on bookshelves in a bookshop is not the author’s problem.

    According to her announcement, Ari’s story is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. This, in spite of the fact that many readers and bloggers like Ari, Bookshop, BookSmugglers, Dear Author and so on focused on Bloomsbury instead of the author. Many of them have made it clear they do not want to make the author a target of annoyance and such. With this much support behind her, she still chose to take the emu’s-head-in-the-sand approach? That blew my mind.

    She wouldn’t even try to compromise, such as having an acknowledgement in her statement there was a problem. And that it was affecting YA readers like Ari. It’d be nice if she could at least acknowledge those. She’s a writer so she should know how to put it in a way that wouldn’t make her feel she’d lose her career prospects. I didn’t want her to lose those, which was why I had been a loudmouth in this thread and elsewhere about readers, authors, editors, publishers and publishing in general instead of just her alone.

    I just feel that, like it or not, social responsibility comes with writing for the YA genre. And I feel she’s let herself and others down with that official statement. She chickened out, basically. If she had stood by her initial reactions, she’d come out a victor, especially in light of Bloomsbury’s recent decision to change the jacket.

    It may be wrong of me to feel that way, but that’s the way I feel. I honestly nurse no hard feelings for the author, but sorry, my priority is with everyone’s attempt to do the right thing for our future generation like Ari and my children and for other – IMO – deserving authors.

  133. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 17:47:54

    @seressia:

    I suppose you've only seen that one shabati

    ROFL…No, I’ve seen quite a few more than this one. This Shabti is an unusual size — much larger than traditional shabti — and its regalia is meant to symbolize the king (Tutankhamen) himself. The shabti is a “substitute” for Tutankhamen, meant to perform whatever services the gods require of Tutankhamen in the afterlife.

    I've seen hundreds, in wood, alabaster (mostly alabaster, like the canopic jars) and some gold and other precious metals.

    I am confident, given your experience and research, you already know that blue shabti are common and that ancient Egyptians viewed blue as a spiritual color, symbolizing the person’s closeness to god (probably this idea came about from discoloration of dead bodies.)

    So…when the Egyptians painted shabti blue, or constructed shabti of blue mineral, or constructed idealized likenesses of people that may not have been completely true to the person (before the Armana Period) does this mean the Egyptians expressed prejudice OR was it simple artistic expression which often clings to some indefinable and/or unrealistic ideal?

    I suppose horses could get mad that Remington put them in bronze. Or the Chinese could get up in arms over the emperor and his terra cotta warriors (saw those too)

    Perhaps hard-laying hens across the globe should unite in protest against Faberge’s Easter eggs. It makes as much sense as suffering emotional injury over a fictional character’s skin tone on a book cover.

    Writing calls.

    Good luck with the series. : )

    I love researching ancient Egypt!

    So do I. You recall, of course, the epic battle between the Great Cat and the Serpent, the Cat slew the Serpent and vanquished darkness for yet another day.

  134. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 18:39:45

    I'm sure it's gratifying and empowering to any racist who wants to post a “Darks Only” sign on a book. : )

    OOhh, the indirect reference. But since race is artificial, you’ll get over it dear. However, you can always start a counter protest. That’s it! You can write to Bloomsbury and cast your net throughout the blogspere and tell them all about your theories on race. BAHAHAHAHA!!!

    And you can get their decision overturned.
    Ah the power of a B, I mean a C, oh an A

  135. cs
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 18:52:17

    I have too much going for me to go into vapors because a book cover model is “too light,” “too dark,” or in possession of some other deficiency.

    Right. So tell me why are you bothering to reply to this post in the first place if “you’ve got too much going on for you” – I mean surely you’ve got better things to do with your time.

    Secondly is it possible for white people to be racist to other…white people. I mean considering there are a lot of people here who’re Caucasian, and aren’t so pleased about the cover.

    As an Asian person the girl looks white to me. Do I think this is racist, no. I mean I’d find it racist if the publisher didn’t allow writers to write people of colour (or hire them). However, I find it ridiculous that these publishers pay artists to make a book cover, and it doesn’t represent what’s under the covers (so to speak). Then enough people complain, and they have to do it all over again. Why not just do it right the first time.

    To me it isn’t about the colour anyway, it’s about the features. I’m dark, my sister is very white. Whiter than most white folk, but she looks Asian. That girls on the cover does look like a Keira Knightley.

  136. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 19:05:23

    The UK Guardian picked up the story.
    Go Ari!
    Jhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jan/21/bloomsbury-race-row-book-cover

  137. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 19:12:08

    @Polly:

    @A

    It's actually the author's response (or rather, what I saw as a lack of a strong response) that bothered me more than the cover.

    Hello, Polly. I apologize, I missed your comment earlier in the blog.

    In my opinion, the author was and is in an essentially no-win situation. Whatever she says or does not say is subject to scrutiny and criticism. She isn’t sympathetic enough to Ari, isn’t assertive enough toward her publisher, doesn’t acknowledge the alleged “problem.”

    While I’m sorry Ari’s feelings are hurt by the cover art, it’s not the author’s responsibility. Responsibility for helping Ari cope with her hurt feelings falls upon Ari’s parents and secondarily upon a trusted clergyman and perhaps a therapist If my child alleged to be emotionally injured due to a character’s skin color on a book’s cover art, I would find my child a therapist.

    I am not saying Ari’s hurt feelings do not matter, I am saying that Bloomsbury and the author are not responsible for her hurt feelings.

    The real victim in this scenario is the author and she has my deepest sympathy and support. This is a first-time author. Sadly, the reviews of her novel are pretty favorable and this should have been the author’s moment to bask in a job well done after the hard work of preparing and completing a novel. Instead, she is backed against a wall over cover art and people are boycotting or threatening to boycott her book because they dislike what she has to say or dislike her for not saying what they think she should say.

    It’s sad to think this negative experience may impact the author and affect her decision to continue writing professionally and affect her choice of subject matter in future work if she does continue to write professionally.

  138. Robin
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 19:17:10

    Kate Harding wrote a great piece on this issue for Salon, too: http://is.gd/6LPob.

  139. Tim Ancient
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 19:44:40

    @cs:
    Although it’s very provocative to read evasive statements written by people having the stench of racism, yet I have to remind myself that they’re not to be blamed. Of course I must say that they don’t know the essence of what integrity is when it comes to human equality. They’re too lethargic to understand that the same abomination committed by whites when they worked non-white people back in the eighteenth century for food, is equal to the treatment publishers are handing out to the same disenfranchised people of color today. Let it be said here and now, that racism– in and of itself is nasty, scornful, belittling and depraved, and they who do it are indecent and stinkers. I think authors should write to the White House and submit their grievances on this racist problem– because it’s the US government who first planted the racist seed in the constitution of this country and has supported it by political means throughout many decades. It’s such a disgrace!!!

  140. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 19:56:54

    @cs:

    Right. So tell me why are you bothering to reply to this post in the first place if “you've got too much going on for you” – I mean surely you've got better things to do with your time.

    Well I was laboring under the delusion that Jane would offer intelligent response to my request she support her assertions regarding Bloomsbury “not liking dark-skinned people” and that she would explain the necessity of revealing the alleged age, race, and gender of Bloomsbury’s executives in her blog. Then all these other posters uncomfortable with the obvious have been attempting to deflect the issue ever since.

    Secondly is it possible for white people to be racist to other…white people.

    It is possible for any “race” to experience and even nurture self-hatred toward itself.

    As an Asian person the girl looks white to me.

    What is an “Asian person?” What does it men to “look white?”

    Zeenat Aman, former Miss Asia and Miss Asian Pacific: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeenat_Aman

    Kate Beckinsale, biracial actress (“white” and “Asian”): http://www.topnews.in/light/files/kate_beckinsale.jpg

    If either of these ladies were featured on a book cover about an “Asian” heroine or a “biracial” heroine, would you consider them inauthentic and inappropriate?

    Gabrielle Bou Rached, former Miss Lebanon (eligigle to compete for “Miss Asia”):

    http://www.a7lasouwar.com/images/big/df6b198photo_gabrielle_bou_rached_11.jpg

    Note the obvious “makeup line” (her wrist is much paler than her made-up face.) Does Mrs. Rached’s appearance “disqualify” her as a “real” Asian?

    I find it ridiculous that these publishers pay artists to make a book cover, and it doesn't represent what's under the covers (so to speak).

    I’m on board with you there.

    To me it isn't about the colour anyway, it's about the features. I'm dark, my sister is very white. Whiter than most white folk, but she looks Asian.

    What does “Asian” look like? “Asia” comprises numerous nations and cultures.

  141. Christine M.
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 20:16:27

    @A:

    The real victim in this scenario is the author and she has my deepest sympathy and support. This is a first-time author. Sadly, the reviews of her novel are pretty favorable and this should have been the author's moment to bask in a job well done after the hard work of preparing and completing a novel. Instead, she is backed against a wall over cover art and people are boycotting or threatening to boycott her book because they dislike what she has to say or dislike her for not saying what they think she should say.

    You’re kidding, right? Her name is now all over the place…. the publicity her book is getting is more than she could probably ever dreamt she’d get for a first release. All the better for her if GUM has been getting positive reviews. Not only people are talking about her book, but when people will be looking up to see what the book inside the controversial cover is actually about, they’ll read positive comments. My reasoning might sound opportunist, but this author might as well seize the moment and make whatever she can out of this situation.

  142. Polly
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 20:32:39

    @A

    Yup, you’re right–the author is in a difficult position. It’s not a no-win situation, but it is a no-easy-out situation. And it is a lot to deal with when what she probably wants is just to celebrate her book. On the other hand, she chose her story and protagonist, and all my earlier comments on disingenuousness still stand.

    I am not, and was not, requiring her to respond as I would have in the situation; what I was disappointed in was her failure to engage with the issue, to either own the cover, or acknowledge a problem. Or even own the cover but admit if she herself had reservations. Saying that some people might have reservations without admitting where she stands on the matter is like offering an “I’m sorry you were hurt” instead of an apology; in other words, commenting on an effect without accepting a causal or correlative link between action and effect. I’m not saying she should apologize, but that’s the only linguistic analogy I can come up with now. I felt like her response was essentially, “I understand if you’re upset, don’t be upset, let’s just celebrate my book.” Even an acknowledgment/reminder that she herself had a mixed reaction to the cover would have been welcome. I just wanted an honest reaction to the concerns raised, a yes it is a problem, not it’s not a problem, yes it’s sort of a problem. I felt like she was using her long-time ambition of being a writer as an excuse for not addressing the issue.

    I do find your scorn (as I perceive it) in suggesting a therapist for alleged emotional damage a little much. I’m not sure which troubles me more–that you don’t seem to recognize that images have power (because seriously, we’re talking about images in general, of which this cover is one example. No one is suggesting that this image, and this image alone, is what’s at stake) or that you’re reducing Ari’s response (and again, Ari might be the one teen reader whose response we have, but she’s certainly not the only non-white reader to have that experience) to a little bit of hurt feelings. Maybe if it were only one child or teen who was ever upset or hurt by misrepresentations or a lack of representation of people like them, I’d suggest they were being overly sensitive and might suggest counseling, but come on, we all know she’s a stand in, for the purposes of this discussion, of much larger groups. Race may be socially constructed, but that doesn’t make the effects of prejudice or under-representation any less destructive.

  143. Angela
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 21:04:50

    Okay, so Bloomsbury is changing Dolamere’s cover, as they did with Larbelastier’s “Liar.”

    It is a definite and positive step, but what about the next one, where authors of color are not marginalized by the color of their skin?

    After all, as Monica pointed out, Dolamere, et al have the luxury of writing characters of color without being segregated into a section designated for specific races/ethnicities.

    I mentioned Jade Lee before, but as she winds down writing about Chinese characters, up pops Jeannie Lin–as though the genre can handle only one romance writer of Asian descent, writing Asian characters, at one time.

    Also, the constant, insistent, and consistent lack of diversity in the romance genre spins into a continuous cycle of catch-22: readers don’t buy because non-whites seem “foreign,” yet low sales make publishers leery of acquiring these books, and readers remain accustomed to viewing romances with non-whites as the “Other” since they only appear on bookshelves once in a blue moon.

    @A: I really really don’t understand your presence here, since you’ve repeatedly stated that you don’t care about this situation. If that is the case, and since you refuse to budge on your stance against the arguments presented by most of us, no amount of scientific facts, or your assertions of ignorance about how the industry works, and most importantly, your glee over how you can pass for white, why are you so insistent upon getting your point across?

  144. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 21:15:08

    An editorial assistant from St. Martin’s Press also blogged about it:

    http://sjaejones.com/blog/2010/judge-a-book-by-its-cover/#more-3562

  145. mythicagirl
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 21:24:27

    Is this kid not amazing or what?

    Here’s what Ari proposes next:
    http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/

    An excerpt:

    …Is this the end? No. This can never happen again, the whitewashing on covers. Not on my watch. I’m currently looking into the The Mysterious Benedict Society series whitewashed covers, as pointed out by Bookshelves of Doom. And we still need more books being published and reviewed about people of color, but one step at a time. And this is a BIG step, since it proves once again the power of thousands of voices uniting as one and being heard and the power of bloggers. Thank you all for refusing to be silenced and realizing why this is so important.

    Please still sign this petition telling all publishing companies that you will buy a book with a poc, GLBT or overweight teen on the cover (currently at 304 signatures, keep ‘em coming!). Also commit to reading and reviewing books about POC, write a blog post or better yet to help you get started, join the POC Reading Challenge.

    Read Jaclyn Dolamore’s thoughts on the cover issue (before she knew it was being redesigned I think) here

    Oh and I’m thinking to celebrate the changed cover and the 200 followers I’m going to offer a copy of Magic Under Glass once it’s redesigned. Amongst other things :)

    PS Thanks for all the GLBT recommendations! I’ll reply ASAP and I have read Ash and Down to the Bone.”

  146. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 21:29:36

    @Polly:

    I do find your scorn (as I perceive it) in suggesting a therapist for alleged emotional damage a little much. I'm not sure which troubles me more-that you don't seem to recognize that images have power (because seriously, we're talking about images in general, of which this cover is one example. No one is suggesting that this image, and this image alone, is what's at stake) or that you're reducing Ari's response (and again, Ari might be the one teen reader whose response we have, but she's certainly not the only non-white reader to have that experience) to a little bit of hurt feelings.

    If my child alleged wounded feelings over a book cover, she needs a therapist. Period. I am also at fault as a parent since I have not instilled in her the values, confidence, and self-esteem necessary to function in society. The failure is mine, not a publisher’s.

    You are correct. There are many images in society that can be deemed “offensive” or “hurtful” by groups and individuals. As technological progress makes us more and more a global society, and thus exposes us to more cultures outside our own, greater possibility for offense is possible.

    If everybody had the right to oppress every image that offended or “hurt” them in some way, publishers might as well start producing books in generic plain white covers (although I imagine someone might be offended by that, too.)

    I am not scornful of Ari’s feelings, but I do not conssider publishing companies and cover artists obligated to publish and create art based upon Ari’s perception of “acceptable.”

    Race may be socially constructed, but that doesn't make the effects of prejudice or under-representation any less destructive.

    I agree with you and have said so in several posts.

  147. A
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 21:47:57

    @Angela:

    @A: I really really don't understand your presence here, since you've repeatedly stated that you don't care about this situation.

    I am still waiting for Jane to explain the peculiarities of her topic post, and to either support them or to retract them. Perhaps I have overestimated her strength of character.

    since you refuse to budge on your stance

    Why should I budge from the correct stance? Is this blog only open to persons who endorse the status quo? Diversity of opinion is not encouraged here? Is there a “Yes-man Only” sign I missed?

    no amount of scientific facts, or your assertions of ignorance about how the industry works, and most importantly, your glee over how you can pass for white, why are you so insistent upon getting your point across?

    People choosing to reject documented facts have no one but themselves to blame for their own ignorance. I choose not to reject documented facts. I choose not to embrace concepts of racism and colorism, or to accept limitations of thought about what “dark-skinned” is or what “white-looking,” “Asian-looking” is. And I will continue to share the documentation and information supporting my stance.

    Anyone here with documentation that counters my position is as free to present it as I am (more so, probably, since they are not subject to moderation.)

    I have never “expressed glee for passing for white.” I do not pretend to know what you mean by this. My point in citing my own appearance and background is consistent with my position concerning the slippery aspects of confirming what race is and what (insert race here) looks like.

    In fact, it is other posters using my appreance — an appearance they have not even seen, only read described on this blog — as justification to discredit my opinions. That is racism.

    Isn’t it?

  148. Nonette
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 23:48:05

    @Angela:

    Hell, Jade Lee, who publishes with Harlequin Blaze (a category line which is guaranteed to be in all stores), released a romance with two Asian models on the cover. It's well known that most readers buy all the books in each H/S line every month. Yet, with the full, complete backing of Harlequin, readers did not flock to Lee's book.

    I think that might have to do with the audience. I see a lot of Harlequin’s category readers as conservative, mostly because of lines like NASCAR and Presents. Am I wrong about this?

  149. Angela
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 01:26:47

    @A:

    I am still waiting for Jane to explain the peculiarities of her topic post, and to either support them or to retract them. Perhaps I have overestimated her strength of character.

    Why does Jane have to retract or apologize for her stance–which she considers to be correct? Since, as you say, this blog respects a diversity of opinions, why are you clamoring for Jane to agree with your opinion? I find it difficult to take your opinions seriously when you continuously use tu quoque statements and appeals to authority to prove your rightness.

    In fact, it is other posters using my appreance -’ an appearance they have not even seen, only read described on this blog -’ as justification to discredit my opinions. That is racism.

    You have the luxury of “choosing” to have the opinions you do on race because you look phenotypically “white” yet genotypically biracial. I am definitely not someone who agrees that all biracial (black/white) people are “black”–my opinion is that you should be able to identify based on your appearance and your acculturation, which, based on your sharing that you look white and are legally identified as white, you have so chose. However, your dogmatic responses to this issue are that of a person with the privilege of being treated as white, yet possessing the ability to say “but wait, I’m biracial!” to prove somehow that race does not matter in society. Please don’t continue insulting we who don’t have that privilege.

    That is racism.

    Isn't it?

    You’re really up on your fallacious arguments, aren’t you? According to the dictionary, racism is:

    1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others. (Since the commenters have been black, Asian, biracial, white, etc, I don’t think we’ve reached a consensus that you are biologically inferior based on your race).

    2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. (I don’t believe we’ve passed any laws to keep you from leaving comments on the blog).

    3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. (I have yet to see anyone use any ethnic slurs your way).

    So all in all, you’ve used tu quoque, an appeal to authority, an appeal to emotion, and you’ve set up numerous straw man attacks. And I fail to sway to your reasoning when culturally and historically, race (and gender, and socio-economic status, and sexuality, and religion) has been used to degrade, separate, oppress, and humiliate those who are not of the majority.

    But what does it matter now that Bloomsbury has pulled the book to redesign the cover? I’m less concerned with your opinions and more concerned that this is one more battle fought and won to overcome the systematic Otherness and/or exclusion of people of color from taking part in the mainstream book industry. Hopefully, next will come to desegregation of fiction.

    @Nonette:

    I think that might have to do with the audience. I see a lot of Harlequin's category readers as conservative, mostly because of lines like NASCAR and Presents. Am I wrong about this?

    You’re not wrong, but as said above, readers are so used to not seeing people of color featured prominently in their books that they are automatically “Otherized” when they do appear. If any of the Harlequin/Silhouette lines began to feature a diversity of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, on a consistent basis, no matter if sales were lower than the norm, perhaps in time, readers would cease to see two Asians on the cover of HQ Blaze, or two black people on the cover of Kimani, or even interracial couples on any cover, and immediately think “different,” “uncomfortable,” “not for me.”

    For readers, the placement of people of color on book covers typically means that their ethnicity is the entire subject matter of the book (and anytime segregation in romance crops up, there are always one or two commenters who claim they don’t read AA romance because it is all about racism and hating white people). We all read romance for escape and pleasure, and your typical reader, with their perceptions about romances with people of color, does not want to pick up books by Jade Lee, or Monica Jackson, or Rochelle Alers, because they feel it will shatter the escapist factor of romance.

  150. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 02:01:48

    @Tim Ancient:

    the same abomination committed by whites when they worked non-white people back in the eighteenth century for food…

    is no different from the same abomination committed by “nonwhites” when they worked “nonwhite” people back in the eighteenth century for food…

    Like this family: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1069-2002May10.html

    No different from Native American tribes who enslaved “nonwhites” and “whites” to do their work, either.

    Your statements and accusations are classic examples of racism. A non-racist statement would be, simply, that slavery, regardless of the racial I.D. of the owner and of the slave, is repellant, amoral, and unworthy of any civilized, enlightened society.

    Instead, you opt to focus upon historical slavery as “abomination” only in the event of “white” owner/s owning “non-white” slave/s.

    Lack of education and real understanding/acceptance of historical slavery is directly responsible for your present racist bias.

    Educate yourself. Free yourself from the bondage related to ignorance and misinformation.

  151. Nonette
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 02:08:17

    Angela: You are absolutely right. I’m just hoping that different demographics right now will be more open to PoCs on covers than Blaze‘s. This may or may not have to do with the sci-fi I’m currently writing.

  152. Nonette
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 02:22:57

    @A: I’m biracial who looks white too. I understand a concept called privilege. You and me? We have it. You need to stop belittling Ari’s feelings (trust me, you are) and start listening.

    http://www.derailingfordummies.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege
    http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf

  153. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 03:00:40

    Why does Jane have to retract or apologize for her stance-which she considers to be correct?

    According to Jane (in her opening post:)”Bloomsbury doesn't want dark skinned people on their covers.” She is not opining this; she is stating it as fact. I’ve asked her to support this allegation (with something a tad more substantial than some “inaccurate” cover art for books.)

    I also question this comment in her post: “This is a list of Bloomsbury executives (white, male, old)…” I asked why this was relevant. If Bloomsbury’s executives were all “black,” female, and young, would that information be relevant to the “whitewashed cover concern?”

    In my opinion, this is important because, if to Jane’s mind the “race,” gender, and age of the publishing executives DOES impact her stance on “Bloomsbury not liking dark-skinned people on their covers,” than her statement is clearly biased toward “race,” age, and gender.

    Jane is, of course, free to decline to respond, but her disinclination to support her stance indicates her stance is, at best, insupportable.

    If her stance is insupportable, what then? Freedom of speech does not assuage individuals of responsibility for their speech, particularly in the public arena.

    I am unconvinced her allegations concerning Bloomsbury are truthful. Bloomsbury’s decision to re-design the jacket cover is additional discredit to these allegations.

    At this point, I see no indication that Bloomsbury is entertaining a “Whites Only” policy, but I DO see SOME indications leading me to suspect Jane herself may entertain racist, ageist, and gender biases. Jane has said nothing to correct that perception thus far.

    I find it difficult to take your opinions seriously when you continuously use tu quoque statements and appeals to authority to prove your rightness.

    You are free to reject any opinion I assert. For that matter, you are free to reject any proved fact I assert. The difference is your rejection of a proved fact will not negate that proved fact.

    However, your dogmatic responses to this issue are that of a person with the privilege of being treated as white, yet possessing the ability to say “but wait, I'm biracial!” to prove somehow that race does not matter in society.

    I haven’t said “race does not matter. I have said race is not real, that the concept of race as a biological reality does not exist. Race itself does not exist beyond vague, indefinable, and very changeable social standards. That doesn’t make societal problems related to these standards any less real or any less problematic. I am not disrespecting anyone or saying their experiences (including my own) are invalid; I am saying they are based on something that is not real.

    According to the dictionary, racism is:

    1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. (Since the commenters have been black, Asian, biracial, white, etc, I don't think we've reached a consensus that you are biologically inferior based on your race).

    2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. (I don't believe we've passed any laws to keep you from leaving comments on the blog).

    3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. (I have yet to see anyone use any ethnic slurs your way).

    “To be honest, justifying and excusing Bloomsbury's decision, based on your experience as a white-looking person, is not all right.Especially if you have a luxury to inform people you're mixed race whenever it suits you…”

    The above is a racially biased statement. Its implicit meaning is that, because of my “race,” my comments are “not at all right.”

    If my comments are “wrong,” they are “wrong.” Attributing “wrongness” to my remarks based upon “race” represents the same kind of delusions fostering racism. The poster disputing my comments should be able to do so without citing my “race” as a qualifier.

    I have yet to think anyone here has an invalid opinion because of his/her “race.”

    But what does it matter now that Bloomsbury has pulled the book to redesign the cover?

    Bloomsbury’s action only further invalidates Jane’s claims of the publisher’s “Whites Only” policies and “dislike of dark skin?” (and if those kinds of remarks don’t qualify as an appeal to emotion in your mind, I’m afraid I must regard your take on my comments as skewed.)

    Anyway, I’ve got my copy with the original cover, so that’s cool. And if Jane lacks the integrity to address her unfounded assertions, well, that reflects on no one’s integrity except hers and those who chose to credit her comments.

  154. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 03:54:17

    For readers, the placement of people of color on book covers typically means that their ethnicity is the entire subject matter of the book (and anytime segregation in romance crops up, there are always one or two commenters who claim they don't read AA romance because it is all about racism and hating white people). We all read romance for escape and pleasure, and your typical reader, with their perceptions about romances with people of color, does not want to pick up books by Jade Lee, or Monica Jackson, or Rochelle Alers, because they feel it will shatter the escapist factor of romance.

    I admit I am somewhat cautious when selecting “non-traditional” romance — by that I refer to ANY type of romance not featuring a white, monogamous, non-handicapped m/f pairing — because I really don’t want to read a book where “white” people, “straight” people, Christian people, etc. are villified, represented as being insensitive or lacking awareness and respect for minorities.

    At times, this tendency is very subtle, but it does indeed spoil the entertainment factor and escapism of romance.

    I look for the same elements in non-trad romance that I want in trad romance: likeable, interesting characters, interesting secondary plot, conflict, tension, and a HEA.

    I realize conflict related to race/gender can occur, but I don’t want to read something where non-minority society is made the constant heavy for any challenges the characters must overcome.

  155. Angela
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 04:46:15

    @A:

    Wow, wow, wow. Hold on–are you saying that you are likely to avoid romance novels with non-whites, non-Christians, non-heterosexuals, etc because you are worried that they are full of messages against straight white Christians? That is one of the most ignorant, insulting, and closed-minded opinions I’ve ever heard.

    So it’s okay that for the most part, minorities are typically drawn in a stereotypical manner in “white” fiction? That all those sheikhs, Greek tycoons, Italian billionaires, and wealthy Spaniards are okay in romance–but whoa, let’s not treat them like human beings, just “exotic” stereotypes? That in Georgette Heyer’s novels, her antisemitism is excusable as “part of the times”? Or that the proliferation of crazed gay villains in historicals and romantic suspense is just fine? That it’s fine and dandy to published a load of books set in British Empire locales where white people are having BIG fun? (never mind that these countries and their peoples were exploited and abused for this fun).

    If all you see when you come across a novel with non-white, non-straight, non-Christian characters is “We hate those racist, insensitive white, straight, Christians!” you have serious issues you need to work out.

  156. Maili
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 05:48:23

    @A:

    I admit I am somewhat cautious when selecting “non-traditional” romance -’ by that I refer to ANY type of romance not featuring a white, monogamous, non-handicapped m/f pairing -’ because I really don't want to read a book where “white” people, “straight” people, Christian people, etc. are villified, represented as being insensitive or lacking awareness and respect for minorities.

    At times, this tendency is very subtle, but it does indeed spoil the entertainment factor and escapism of romance.

    Wait. All this time, you’ve been denying a fact that minorities were experiencing discrimination, stereotype-based expectations and racism in real life, fiction and historically. And you believe they need therapists if their feelings are “hurt”.

    And yet, here you are – making a similar statement, but only this time – it’s white straight and Christian people who’re being discriminated and vilified because they’re white, straight and Christian?

    You really can’t have it both ways. Either it exists or it doesn’t.

    To be honest, I really don’t want to believe an implication you’re putting out: only people encouraging discrimination are non-white, LGBT and non-Christian. If that’s what you really believe, then I don’t know what to say.

    Well, while there are some who do share your view, I’m deeply grateful that many ‘white’ people I know in real life and online don’t share your view at all.

  157. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 07:59:40

    @Angela:

    Wow, wow, wow. Hold on-are you saying that you are likely to avoid romance novels with non-whites, non-Christians, non-heterosexuals, etc because you are worried that they are full of messages against straight white Christians? That is one of the most ignorant, insulting, and closed-minded opinions I've ever heard.

    Actually, no, that is not what I said. I said I am more cautious in my selection. Not the same thing. And yes, I have read non-traditional romances of the tone and nature I’ve described. I’ve also read some very good ones.

    Have you never bought or read books with underlying themes and messages striking you as biased or otherwise offensive?

    Geez Louise, people have been going round and round over a BOOK COVER deemed “offensive” due to the cover model’s “light skin,” but I’m not allowed to be put off by a book’s CONTENT if that content is not to my liking?

    Double standard much?

    So it's okay that for the most part, minorities are typically drawn in a stereotypical manner in “white” fiction?

    I don’t know what “white fiction” is. My opinion, stereotyping, whether minority or non-minority, is the hallmark of a lazy writer.

    I take it you’re okay with non-minority stereotyping since you’re only addressing stereotyping minorities. I am sorry for you if such is the case.

    sheikhs, Greek tycoons, Italian billionaires, and wealthy Spaniards are okay in romance-but whoa, let's not treat them like human beings, just “exotic” stereotypes?

    “Sheikh” pertains to a position, not to a “race.” As for exotic stereotype, Rudy Valentino (“white” person) is probably the ultimate stereotype of Sheikh romance. Greek, Italian, and Spaniard are all terminology concerning nationalities, not “race.”

    I said nothing about not treating these character types as human beings? I must insist, if you wish to continue conversing, that you not distort my comments.

    That in Georgette Heyer's novels, her antisemitism is excusable as “part of the times”?

    I haven’t noted antisemitism in Heyer’s novels, although I’ve only read four of her novels thus far. It would not surprise me if some of her historicals did contain antisemitic content, but I haven’t read any yet.

    Whether it’s “excusable” or not is not the issue. The isue is whether or not the book — a work of fiction crafted for entertainment — entertains me.

    Or that the proliferation of crazed gay villains in historicals and romantic suspense is just fine?

    No problem with minority villains or psychos. Minorities are human and are capable of being villains and/or psychos.

    Do you claim minorities should never be portayed as mentally ill or villainous in fiction? If so, on what basis do you support such a claim?

    That it's fine and dandy to published a load of books set in British Empire locales where white people are having BIG fun?

    Why shouldn’t “white” people have fun? What do you have against “white” people that you resent positive representations of them in fiction?

    If all you see when you come across a novel with non-white, non-straight, non-Christian characters is “We hate those racist, insensitive white, straight, Christians!” you have serious issues you need to work out.

    Lucky me, this isn’t “all I see.” Nor did I say so.

  158. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 08:15:29

    @Maili:

    you've been denying a fact that minorities were experiencing discrimination, stereotype-based expectations and racism in real life, fiction and historically

    Excuse me? Please quote me where I said such things. I mean reference specific words where I claimed discrimination and stereotyping (of ALL people, not merely minorities) does not exist.

    To be honest, I really don't want to believe an implication you're putting out: only people encouraging discrimination are non-white, LGBT and non-Christian.

    It’s really very simple:

    1. I read (particularly romance fiction) for entertainment.

    2. I am uninterested in romance fiction reliant upon a theme that “mainstream” society or the majority population — is responsible for all the bad breaks non-minority societ/ies experience. This does not entertain me.

    3. I have no problem with such books being written. I have no problem with such books being sold. I have no problem with such books finding positive reception amongst their audience, but I personally am uninterested in such subject matter and I choose not to purchase and read such books. Why? Lack of entertainment factor for me.

    DA is a book review site. If you have browsed here any amount of time, I’m sure you’re aware different people enjoy reading different types of books.

    The type of book cited by me is not the type of book I wish to read. That is my choice as a reader.

    What part don’t you get?

  159. Mythicagirl
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 08:35:34

    @A

    “I am still waiting for Jane to explain the peculiarities of her topic post, and to either support them or to retract them. Perhaps I have overestimated her strength of character.”

    “I am unconvinced her allegations concerning Bloomsbury are truthful. Bloomsbury's decision to re-design the jacket cover is additional discredit to these allegations.”

    Oh dear. I’m suddenly getting a vision of Glen Close’s character Alex Forrest screaming “I won’t be ignored!” from Fatal Attraction.

    There are many links posted here and throughout the net, some with even stronger headlines than the one Jane wrote. So because you’ve got an ax to grind with Jane (What, did she give you a bad review? Not say hi to you in the break room? – Naw, nevermind, I don’t wanna know)

    Jane, its been fun. You’re a lawyer, you know how to file a restraining order if you ever deem it necessary.

  160. Monica Jackson
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 09:01:37

    My goodness, racial conversations concerning blacks seem to have improved vastly in Romanceland.

    There used to be multiple As, tons of them, all attacking (usually attacking me) in support of the status quo

    Using the R-word was bad, bad, bad. R wasn’t that bad, just using the word was bad because it made them uncomfortable.

    I wanted to thank Jane and others who kept dealing with this issue on their blogs, even though it was awful, especially at first.

    I wanted to thank the many commenters who are discussing racism and the minority point of view without derailing the topic or talking about how uncomfortable it makes you (formerly, always the key point of any race discussion involving blacks).

    It seems to be paying off as far as people finally starting to understand.

  161. RRRJessica
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 10:36:29

    @Monica Jackson: I’m with Ms. Jackson.

    Thanks, Jane, for raising this important issue. I don’t have anything to add, but wanted another comment on record in support of Jane’s position.

  162. Lane
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 14:23:39

    @A:

    Trying to take a different tack:

    in 6, you said:

    I live in a multicultural region and I can say honestly that, of the three cover art samples depicted on this blog, at least two of them (the center and the left) do, indeed, look biracial to me.

    Does that mean that the one on the right (The one that is the center of the controversy) looks white to you?

    How do you define white? How do you define multiracial? You have used these descriptors multiple times to refer to both the covers and yourself. You say:

    Again, I really do not perceive the model as “white.” She looks multiethnic to me and a credible match to the description provided via the book's quotes.

    Obviously, you must have some criteria to be able to use these terms yourself. You yourself identify the characters portrayed on Richard Peck’s covers as ‘white’ in comment 78.

    Perhaps you could include the actual picture so we can have a frame of reference as to what you define as ‘white’?

    While you are at it, can you explain how you can expect to use these descriptors without giving a frame of reference on how you define them without censure, while others cannot?

  163. Anon
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 15:21:39

    Even camera’s are racist. Face detection on the latest cameras and web cams only see light skinned people and rounder, non Asian eyes.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20100122/wl_time/08599195464300

  164. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 16:42:51

    @Lane:

    Does that mean that the one on the right (The one that is the center of the controversy) looks white to you?

    Hello, Lane.

    Clarification: the cover models in the center (second cover for “Liar”) and the cover for “Magic Under Glass” feature at least some attributes that, in my opinion, match the appearance commonly associated with mixed “race” individuals.

    “Liar’s” first cover model may not look “exotic” in my opinion but that does not in itself mean the model is not (according to the definition) “biracial”

    The attachment of this issue bases itself upon skin color and some specific degree of “darkness” that has never been defined or demonstrated despite numerous requests from me.

    If no one can even define what “dark-skinned” is, how can anybody say reasonably that the figure on the book jacket does not represent the protagonist accurately.

    Must the model “pass” a revised “paper bag test” before she’s “acceptable” to represent a “brown, golden” person?

    I once watched a local university production of “Hamlet.” The title role was portrayed by an eloquent actor with tremendous presence and care for his craft.

    The actor possessed looks, features, and coloring common to the “black” “race.”

    Imagine if people took offense and posted blogs insisting that this actor was “too dark” to reasonably portray a fictitious Danish prince. Imagine if they insisted he be replaced with an actor “more suitable-looking.”

    Would that qualify as a reasonable complaint and expectation to your mind?

    How do you define white? How do you define multiracial? You have used these descriptors multiple times to refer to both the covers and yourself.

    I am basing my interpretation of “race” and “multiracial” upon physicical appearances more commonly associated with historical specific ethnicities and nationalities.

    However, as this thread bears out, what “looks” “white,” “black,” “Asian,” “dark,” or “golden” clearly has different meanings for different people.

    If you check my earlier post, No. 137, I asked another poster to define “Asian-looking” and to identify “real Asian features.” I provided numerous links to photos of women identified as “Asian” and asked if these women “looked Asian.”

    Conclusion: concept of “race” at best is skewed and imperfect. It is based entirely upon visual perception. I perceive the cover model as multiethnic looking, others perceive her as “white.” Am I “wrong?” If so, why? Is there evidence proving multiethnic people and mixed “race” people don’t resemble the cover model? If so, where?

    Regarding Peck’s novel, here is the cover art of the book I read:
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/richard-peck/secrets-of-shopping-mall.htm

  165. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 17:21:04

    @Monica Jackson:

    There used to be multiple As, tons of them, all attacking (usually attacking me) in support of the status quo…

    You’re mistaken. Multiple As would not bother attacking you. I don’t need to attack anyone because, despite the present unpopularity of my position, my position is the correct position. When one is right and one knows it, attacking others is unneccessary.

    So, while I’m truly sorry people have attacked you, it is not appropriate to associate those experiences with my questionning Jane’s sensationalized and potentially libelous blog posts.

  166. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 18:12:12

    I decline to respond to additional posts that do not address the challenges I issued earlier concerning the allegations of Bloomsbury’s “Whites Only policy” and “dislike of dark skin.”

    Thanks to all posters participating in discussion. “Race” is an extremely sensitive topic. An alarming number of people nurture the superstition of “race” and I appreciate all participants who contributed civil discussion, even though they did not answer my questions.

    To Whom it May Concern:

    My copy of “Magic Under Glass” just arrived. After examining the novel’s original cover art, I really cannot claim my opinion has changed.

    If anything, the RL cover art is darker (in tone) than the graphics posted on this blog. The model’s skin tone (which appears to be the BHD to the offended parties) appears to be a golden,bronze/brown color.

    That said, it’s difficult to say with certainty what the model’s “real color” is due to the light and shadow effects of the artwork.

    I suspect the cover art, like other comparable books, is meant to be ambiguous, racially fluid in nature, and thus offer wider appeal to a wider audience beyond teenagers who feel their view of “dark” is the sole relevant view.

    Happily, I did open the book and begin skimming the content, and discovered Dolamore possesses an appealing voice and solid writing skills. I anticipate a brief pleasant “light read.”

  167. Tim Ancient
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 19:02:56

    Author: A. Integrity or the lack of it is never obscured from one’s expression, the light is always shinning, and here in your own words is found no exception. You clearly evaded the factual and prickling allegations that I’ve made which impacted on the present racist washing of books, therefore you’ve earned yourself zilch authenticity.

    Your stance on preaching the acceptance of slaves working for food, makes me believe that you could well be a member of the KKK, and at the time you’re writing on this blog, are wearing white apparel with complimentary headpiece attached. In cases you didn’t know this. The flagrant discrimination of nonwhite authors which goes on unabated year after year by racist publishers, basically position authors of color to work for food, while their counterpart becomes very wealthy. Have you ever seen one black author gets their book-cover washed in liked manner as white authors have by their publishers? Say something about that, just be candid here and not beat around the point. I think this post is about trying to solve a publishing unfair treatment problem, will you help?

  168. A
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 19:29:16

    @Tim Ancient:

    you could well be a member of the KKK, and at the time you're writing on this blog, are wearing white apparel with complimentary headpiece attached.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071634/

    …in The Nature of Prejudice.2 Allport’s 5-point scale categorizes increasingly dangerous acts. It begins with verbal expression of antagonism…

    Prejudice type: A delusion whose theme is that a group of individuals, who share a defining characteristic, in one’s environment have a particular and unusual significance. These delusions are usually of a negative or pejorative nature, but also may be grandiose in content. When these delusions are extreme, the person may act out by attempting to harm, and even murder, members of the despised group(s)…

  169. Jane
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 19:47:48

    I’m going to close this thread as I think everyone has had their say including the sock puppets.

  170. Race Discussions in Romance Seem To Have Evolved
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:11:40

    [...] was looking at the latest at Dear Author over the cover [...]

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