Thursday, July 30, 2009

White model chosen to represent black character  

4 comments
Liar is a new young adult book by Justine Larbalestier that tells the story of a young compulsive liar, described in the book as a black woman with short, nappy hair. But you wouldn't know that from the U.S. cover.


Clearly, the cover depicts a pretty white girl with long silky hair. But Larbalestier is known for never having white protagonists in her books. As the author herself explains, authors of books often get little to no say on their book covers:


The US Liar cover went through many different versions. An early one, which I loved, had the word Liar written in human hair. Sales & Marketing did not think it would sell. Bloomsbury has had a lot of success with photos of girls on their covers and that's what they wanted. Although not all of the early girl face covers were white, none showed girls who looked remotely like Micah.

I strongly objected to all of them. I lost.

This is why those who were upset over the cover of Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti, which depicts a white, naked, flat-stomached woman, were wrong to attack Valenti herself.

Why did publishing companies of both Larbalestier and Valenti's books choose the covers that they did? Simple. Because they sell. White women sell. Naked women sell. Pretty girls on covers sell.

Upsetting, to say the least. Unfortunately, such habits are not subject to change until we can change what society views as "beautiful." The most direct thing to do is contact Justine's publisher and Jessica's publisher and state your disapproval for their cover choices. But ultimately, what creates the most change is celebrating all different types of beauty. Women are beautiful, whether they are black or white, or with short natural hair or long silky hair. Hopefully one day the rest of society will realize that.

(Thanks to Tiffany for the story tip)

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4 comments: to “ White model chosen to represent black character


  • July 31, 2009 at 4:56 AM  

    the most direct thing to do is not buy books you do not like. In fact, it's the only thing to do. It is demand that creates supply.


  • July 31, 2009 at 7:47 AM  

    Huh. I had lots of say over the cover of MY book. In fact, I'm in the process of choosing a cover for my 2nd book right now. I guess it depends on the publisher.

    Putting a white model on the cover of a book about an African-American woman doesn't make any more sense than putting a horse on the cover of Charlotte's Web.


  • July 31, 2009 at 12:04 PM  

    Hm, I suppose it does depend on the publisher. Which publisher are you using?


  • July 31, 2009 at 1:44 PM  

    "the most direct thing to do is not buy books you do not like."

    But wouldn't that also screw over the author, who in this case is the one we want to support?

    This is why those who were upset over the cover of Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti, which depicts a white, naked, flat-stomached woman, were wrong to attack Valenti herself."

    Well, I don't claim to have read every single thing that Valenti has written on the subject, but I seem to remember both her and her fans defending that cover.