Last year, Bloomsbury chose a white cover model for a YA novel about a black girl. They fixed it — but now they’ve done it again. Outcry over the white-washing of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar prompted Bloomsbury to issue a new cover featuring a black girl, and to apologize (kind of).
Lavie Tidhar’s already done a great blog that lays out the situation. For the sake of staying focused, we’ll ignore that Bloomsbury’s new cover featured the lightest black person they could find. Though, this was a fact noted by Ellen Datlow (who is quite white) and she goes on to point out in her open letter to Bloomsbury.
I was trying to explain this scenario to a friend of mine who is not connected to the publishing world at all. He found it stunning that in this day and age such racism is openly practiced. The idea that white people won’t buy books with black people on a cover or that there’s not a book buying public among the black community who would purchase books borders on the irrational. Yet it seems that once again it seems like racefail is in full effect.
Now would be the time when I would point out that not all publishers buy into the cycle of reinforcing racist ideas. I would point to Angry Robot’s cover for South African writer Lauren Beukes‘ second novel, Zoo City (art by John Picacio). Or my own novel from them, Knights of Breton Court: Kingmaker. Instead, I will point to the just released art for my second novel, Knights of Breton Court: King’s Justice one more time because it’s just so pretty:
We’ll soon find out whether or not black people on a cover will hurt sales. Nevertheless, having this conversation won’t hurt. Apparently it’s long overdue to happen.
*Lloyd was actually the second model chosen. In an interesting parallel to the Bloomsbury debacle, Angry Robot asked me what I thought of the first model the artist was leaning towards. I said that I thought he was too light as I had imagined King as much darker. The folks at Angry Robot immediately, and I mean, IMMEDIATELY agreed and changed course. You can’t ask much more than that from your publishers.