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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Spanish newspaper article on Justine Larbalestier's cover controversy 
12th-Aug-2009 10:35 am
Let me see..
Today's issue of El País, Spain's leading newspaper, includes an article about the controversy over the depiction of a white girl on the cover of Justine Larbalestier's novel Liar, which is about a black girl:

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/revista/agosto/Polemica/portada/blanqueada/novela/elpepirdv/20090812elpepirdv_7/Tes

My translation of the article:

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Controversy over the "whitened" cover of a novel


How is it possible that a young "black woman with curly hair that she wears natural and short" winds up being a white woman with straight hair? In these terms in her blog, the Australian writer Justine Larbalestier describes Micah, the protagonist in her young adult novel Liar. Nonetheless, the publisher Bloomsbury chose a very different image, racially, for the cover of its edition in the United States, provoking the anger of Afro-Americans.

"Editors are reluctant to put black faces on covers," wrote Karen Scott in her blog. Many black writers have accused publishers of "whitening" the protagonists on their covers. The author herself said in her web: "The cover of Lair went through many versions. One of the first, that I loved, showed the title written with human hair. The sales department thought it wouldn't sell. Bloomsbury has had success with photos of girls and wanted something similar. I objected and lost." Bloomsbury has announced that it will change the cover. The new one will show a young black girl with curly hair.

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-- Sue Burke

Comments 
12th-Aug-2009 10:57 am (UTC)
Good to know the story gets picked up. Justine was a trooper - telling people to *not* buy that edition and buy something else instead. I am glad that the pressure worked. And now I want to see the book succeed to prove that yes, people *do* buy books about non-WASP characters.
13th-Aug-2009 11:25 am (UTC)
They already have proof of that. And that men and boys buy books about women and girls. But publisher sales departments are irrational to the point of superstition. They avoid green covers, for example, because "everybody knows" they don't sell.
13th-Aug-2009 11:56 am (UTC)
I've heard a very plausible explanation for the green thing: it used to be that the green dye would fade very quickly and leave books looking ugly and faded quickly. So 'green covers sell less well than others' was, at some point in the timeline, probably true. I have no idea how and when it turned into superstition and whether green dyes are still fading faster.

People talk a lot about agents and editors being gatekeepers, but the real gatekeepers appear to be the bookbuyers for the big chains and their spectres - if they are perceived to not to want to buy it, publishers are reluctant to take on the book.
13th-Aug-2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
You're right about the real gatekeepers, and they're not as concerned about the quality of the content of a book as editors and publishers.

I know that red dye is the most unstable of all. I've never heard of nor seen many problems with green.

But I took a look at our home library. About the only green English-language books on our shelves are non-fiction books, especially those published by academic press or reference books. I have both fiction and non-fiction green books in Spanish, though. Different sales departments, I guess.
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