If you haven’t been following this, there’s been a lot of discussion recently about the failure of YA’s with main characters who aren’t white to depict them in an ethnically accurate way on book covers. I was aware of the ordeal of Justine Larbalastier’s Liar, which depicted an MC of color as lily white on the intitially-proposed book cover-- race and stick-straight hair defying the description in the book –- until the outcry lead the publisher to relent. But until I read Annie Schute’s excellent article at The Hub, I was unaware of the pervasiveness of this problem. Frankly, I don’t care if racism is somehow seen as good for business; it’s still racism. It’s racism within my own industry. It’s racism that sends readers – both white readers and readers of color – a destructive message that is bad for them personally, bad for society, and bad for YA literature. This seems like such a no-brainer.
I wanted to share the article, and to recommend that YA readers continue to speak up. When you come across a book that downplays or misrepresents the ethnicity of the characters, let the publisher know that you’re troubled by their decision.
I also wanted to make the point that, in general, authors have little or no say in their book covers. I know that author Abby McDonald tried hard recently, finding her own photos and working with a cooperative publisher, to create a beautiful, ethnically accurate cover. But this is the exception, not the rule. The first time I so much as saw the cover of my first picture book was when I came upon it in a bookstore. So the author might well be just as surprised and distressed as her readers to find her character’s race obscured by an ambiguous cover.