International Blog Against Racism Week
International Blog Against Racism Week starts today and runs until August 2. It just happens to coincide with some links I wanted to throw out there.
Justine Larbalestier has posted on her blog regarding the white-washed US cover of her book, Liar, which features a black female protagonist. She talks about how she fought against the cover, but ultimately lost the battle because authors have very little control over the covers of their books. Publishers pick a cover they think will sell, and right now the publishing and retail worlds believe books with faces on them sell better unless those faces are black ones. Larbalestier draws the connection between marketing dollars and black faces, saying “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 … all we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell [which] is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers”.” She then wonders if “the big publishing houses really only in the business of selling books to white people” and I can’t help but agree with her.
Larbalestier goes on to speak about how covers can change the way people read books:
Liar is a book about a compulsive (possibly pathological) liar who is determined to stop lying but finds it much harder than she supposed. I worked very hard to make sure that the fundamentals of who Micah is were believable: that she’s a girl, that she’s a teenager, that she’s black, that she’s USian. One of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that it’s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesn’t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true. At which point the entire book, and all my hard work, crumbles.
Online reviews show this is exactly what’s happening. So, even aside from the fact that white-washing these covers is racist (and that’s a huge aside), they also affect the artistic and thematic integrity of the work they’re supposed to be representing.
International Blog Against Racism Week is just starting up, and I’ll be taking some time out of my week to read through the posts that come from it. Even if you have nothing to add, it’s an important conversation to listen to.