let's get the seven lines. (bookshop) wrote,
let's get the seven lines.
bookshop

New Year's Resolution #7: Stop buying YA from Bloomsbury.

I've been looking forward to the debut YA novel Magic Under Glass for months. I ordered it before the first of the year! it came! The author, fabulousfrock, sent me a bookplate! I was excited!

And then I wasn't.

This is the description of the main character of Magic Under Glass from the review of the book by The Book Smugglers:
    Nimira is a performer, dancing and singing in search of fortune, after migrating from Tassim, in the far East... in Lorinar, she is nothing but a dark-skinned amusement, a novelty “trouser girl” who earns nothing but pennies and whose number comes after acrobats and trained dogs in the music hall she is employed at. ... Nim was a breath of fresh air. For starters, she is dark-skinned and from a different culture; she is strong without being kick-ass: she cries when she has to cry, she fights when she has to fight, she adapts when she has to adapt. She is resilient, she is practical – and she is proud! Proud of her heritage and past.


This is the U.S. hardback cover of Magic Under Glass, published by Bloomsbury USA:



That.... is not anyone who looks like Nimira to me.


You may recall that last fall, Justine Larbalestier's incredible book Liar was at the center of a storm of controversy over the fact that its publisher, Bloomsbury, had whitewashed the cover and used a white face to represent an African-American heroine. After the ARCs started coming out and people started to realize what had happened, enough of an outcry went up on the interwebs that Bloomsbury acted fast and changed the cover to feature a beautiful and far more accurate portrayal of the main character, Micah. (My rec for Liar is here.)

The publisher of Magic Under Glass? Guess who!

The cover of Magic Under Glass? It's been public since the Liar controversy. Bloomsbury was able to yank the original cover of Liar and change it 2 months before it went to press. They had over six months to do the same for Magic Under Glass.

But it was a debut novel whose author didn't have a foothold in the publishing world that would allow her to protest, as Larbalestier did. Also, the reviewing blogosphere generally doesn't review books before they're published. So without the author to spearhead a call to action, there has been none over the whitewashing of Magic Under Glass, and Bloomsbury? Well, obviously, they weren't concerned.

Until we come to the always awesome Book Smugglers, who with the new cover in hand, close their review with, "Nimira is supposed to be dark-skinned !!!! The book trailer captures that and is true to the book (check it out here) but the girl in the US covers is definitely white."

______________________

SAME SHIT, DIFFERENT FUCKING YEAR. THANKS A LOT, BLOOMSBURY, FOR RUINING THE ONLY DEBUT NOVEL OF 2010 THAT I REALLY WANTED TO READ. ENJOY SPENDING THE MONEY I GAVE YOU FOR IT, BECAUSE IT'S THE LAST TIME I EVER BUY ONE OF YOUR BOOKS, YOU RACIST ASSHOLE SHIT PUBLISHER. FOR GOD'S SAKE HOW DOES THIS CRAP KEEP HAPPENING?

______________________


1. I really wanted this to be a review of Magic Under Glass. It's too late to save this book from its cover, and I do want to encourage everyone to read it, talk about it and support fabulousfrock. But after this? From now on?

2. Stop buying books from Bloomsbury Kids. You're on a budget crunch this year anyway. Stop buying books from Bloomsbury. (NOTE: please see Edit, below.)

3. All of you amazing, fantastic readers who are working on your YA novels: don't sell your works to Bloomsbury. Sell them to publishers who encourage diversity, publishers who respect chromatic cultures and characters.

4. Support Tu Publishing. It's necessary. It's important.

5. If you're as outraged by this as I am, say so. The contact info, including email, for the Bloomsbury Kids' Marketing office is available here.

The email I just sent them follows:

    To the Marketing staff of Bloomsbury,

    Having spent too much money last year on less-than-stellar YA debuts, I resolved for 2010 to buy fewer debuts unless I had reason to be really excited about them. The first exception to the rule was Jaclyn Dolamore's Magic Under Glass. I have been looking forward to reading this book for months.

    This week I picked up my copy. And I learned that the heroine of the novel was from the Far East, had dark skin, and looked nothing at all like the white model on the cover of the book I bought.

    My much-anticipated first YA reading experience of 2010 has been ruined by a disgusting example of Racefail from a publisher that really, really should have learned its lesson when this happened last summer. The people who were outraged over Liar were not minor inconveniences at whom you could wave a new cover until we went away. We learned the lesson of Liar, it seems, far better than you did.

    This is the last book I will be buying from Bloomsbury Kids. As a publisher you have now proven to me that you do not respect the characters or the cultures I most want to read about. Bloomsbury does not deserve my money.

    I will also strongly encourage the many YA fans and up-and-coming writers in my community not to submit their books to Bloomsbury. Instead I will encourage them to submit their novels to a publisher who wants more chromatic characters on their debut covers, not one who wants to erase the precious few we already have.

    Sincerely,

    Aja Romano // bookshop



6. Please talk about what Bloomsbury is doing. Boost the signal on this. Let people know that this matters.

_____

ETA: Please note that the description of Nim above comes from the *review* of the book, not from the author/official book blurb. However, the author has stated she would have preferred a non-white model, and hopes that one can be used for the paperback.

_____

ETA, 1/19: Many readers have pointed out that boycotting hurts the authors writing the books we want to read, far more than it hurts the publisher. This is a valid point, and I don't in any way want to hurt J. Dolamore or her career. I also don't want to hurt other Bloomsbury authors whose covers may have been finalized months ago. So at this point, I think raising awareness, contacting Bloomsbury, and trying to work with the writing/publishing community to change minds and condemn this kind of practice is actually the most effective thing we can do in the long run.

The suggestion has been made that a website or blog devoted to tallying/cataloguing/raising awareness of whitewashed covers be made. Any / all other similar suggestions are welcome as well.

Thank you to Color Online, The Story Siren, Jezebel, and others for spreading the word about this.

ETA: 1/20: Bloomsbury has just announced that they will be temporarily halting all sales and releasing a new jacket for Magic Under Glass, with a model who more accurately reflects the main character's ethnic identity.

I think the ensuing
discussion, debate, and collective anger raised on the issue of whitewashing in YA and Children's lit (Coverfail) has been more effective than a boycott could have been to raise awareness and condemn this practice in Bloomsbury and in other publishers. I admire everyone who spoke out about this. You made a difference.
Tags: 2010, an assortment of crappy things, books, politics, rants
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honestly i wouldn't be surprised if the marketing / design people hadn't even read the book when the cover was finalised.

Neither would I. :-w

soundczech

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

soundczech

7 years ago

samenashi

7 years ago

soundczech

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

samenashi

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

soundczech

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

soundczech

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

samenashi

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

samenashi

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

samenashi

7 years ago

soundczech

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

anatsuno

7 years ago

samenashi

7 years ago

Thanks for posting about this.

I'm going to be at ALA Midwinter this weekend (in Boston).
Just checked the exhibitor list and Bloomsbury will be there.
I'll mention my disapproval to their booth people.

Thank you for boosting the signal and speaking out.

cheshyre

7 years ago

*teethgrind*

Posted this to racebending, let me know if that's okay? <3

it is more than okay, thank you for passing the word! :x

imaginarycircus

January 16 2010, 04:12:36 UTC 7 years ago Edited:  January 16 2010, 04:12:52 UTC

This is so depressing.

i don't really know what to say except yeah, yeah it is.
Sent my e-mail:

To the Marketing staff of Bloomsbury,

Althought I am an adult, I am a fan of the YA genre, and thus have bought many of your books over the years. However, I regret to inform you that I can no longer support your company in light of several racist decisions made by your publicity department.

Last year, the cover of Justine Larbalestier's novel Liar featured a white model, despite the fact that the protagonist of the book is described as black. After the decision stirred up controversy, the cover was changed to reflect the contents of the book, and I hoped that it was a one-time mistake. Now, however, the similarily whitewashed cover of Jaclyn Dolamore's novel Magic Under Glass depicts a young white woman instead of the dark-skinned protagonist who narrates the book. Your company's actions show a disregard for the wishes of the author, and a desire- for whatever reason- to make potential readers believe that these books do not feature nonwhite protagonists. Whatever your motivations, your actions have lost you my business- and my money- until such a time as when you attempt to rectify these mistakes and show more concern for multiracial representation in your titles.

Sincerely,

[my name]

this is an excellent, excellent letter. Thanks for sharing it.
FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFfffuuuuuuuuu.

This is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be brought to light. Though the racial issue is huge and socially paramount, I'd also like to point out that far too many book covers inaccurately portray the contents (not even subject matter...as with this example, physical appearance of a main character).

Publishers in general need to learn the hard way that readers support authors, not houses (generally), and covers need to stop becoming the last detail added on at crunch-time.

The publisher and editors do not always know best. Hopefully with the onslaught of new media, this may change.

But if situations like this indicate anything, it's that...we just have to keep making NOISE. LOUDER AND LOUDER.

have you read Liar, by the way? it is. SO. GOOD. So good, and Micah's identity is such a crucial part of the storyline that it's enraging to me that anyone who'd read that book could turn around and try to give hir a white face. It seriously breaks my heart.
Sent my email. I cannot BELIEVE they had the audacity to do this bullshit again. >_<;

---

To the Marketing staff of Bloomsbury,

Despite the fact that I am now an adult, I still very much enjoy Young Adult novels and have read and purchased a good number from your publishing house. However, after not one, but TWO racist mishaps, I can no longer support your company in good conscience.

The first mistake was when the novel, Liar came out this past summer. The main character was a young black woman, yet the originally intended cover for US release was of a white woman. It was only after an outcry from readers across the country and the author herself on her blog that it was later changed to properly depict a black woman on the cover.

The second mistake was with the novel Magic Under Glass, this time being a novel about a woman from the Far East and described as brown. Yet again, the cover depicted a white woman instead of a woman of color on the cover.

It seems you did not learn your lesson the first time with Liar and as such, I will no longer buy anymore novels from your company until you learn that such discrimination is wrong and unjust. If this cannot be done in my lifetime, then neither I nor my family will support your company.

-[Real name goes here]
my god. such FAIL. pity. now i know where not to go for publishing when i finish my paranormal victorian detectives novel, since the lead is a girl from Jamaica
Here from racebending.

While I am strongly in favor of fighting stuff like this, as an aspiring author (who will in theory not sell stuff to Bloomsbury), I about had a heart attack. I really don't think boycotting books is the way to go. The people we'll be hurting are authors, not the corporation. If some books suffer a sales slump, Bloomsbury will blame the authors and drop them or at least put their career at risk. (Having a bad record with any publisher, even a racist one, follows you.)

Write letters, absolutely, but if you like a book... please support the author and buy it. :(

While I realize this is a valid point (and am encouraging people to buy Magic Under Glass and then break up with the publisher, not the author), if we send a message to the publisher that they can continue to get away with whitewashing covers, then they will continue to do it. Bloomsbury has just proven that.

Knowing what we now know about Bloomsbury, I have a really hard time understanding why an author would trust their chromatic characters with them as a publisher. You may be saying "but it's so hard to get published, we don't have a lot of options," and I'm thinking, "....but I don't want to read the writing of someone who cares more about getting published than they do about the integrity of the story they want to tell."

I also understand that we may be seeing more debuts from Bloomsbury authors in the next coming months whose covers have been in the works for a while. I won't punish those authors, necessarily, but I will talk about it and I will continue to boycott Bloomsbury. In the reverse, if Bloomsbury puts chromatic models on the cover of their books, I'll say 'excellent work' and we can talk about that too.

But I'm not going to just keep buying from a company with a racist business model. Bloomsbury is the one hurting the authors. Not me.

Deleted comment

sidepocket_pro

7 years ago

zeborahnz

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

zeborahnz

7 years ago

While I agree that whitewashing covers is definitely not on, I'm uncomfortable at the thought of boycotting authors who signed contracts back in late 2007 and 2008, before Bloomsbury revealed Liar's cover, and who might not be connected to Liar or Magic Under Glass. By boycotting Bloomsbury, it's the authors' sales--and their careers--that will suffer, punishing them for decisions completely out of their control.

Again, I'm in no way agreeing with Bloomsbury's cover decisions, but there must be something else we can do besides boycotting those books and destroying the pawns while trying to reach the king, so to speak. (Excuse the bad metaphor.)
Read my comment above.

bookshop

7 years ago

Linked here through racebending and OMG I'M SEEING RED HERE, DON'T PUBLISHING HOUSES *LEARN* OR SOMETHING?!?!?!

Okay okay, off to write my Very Angry Letter now. Argh, seriously, what the fail.
Considering that I'm writing about two books: One who stares and African Detective whose love interest is Asian American who works with a Indian half-vampire and a homosexual officer and the other book is about a not-on-model girl who eventually falls in love and dates with a black guy...

I now know not to send any of my stuff to Bloomsbury for publication. Even though I hate limiting my options, I rather at least have a chance that other companies will be more incline to represent my work to it's public accurately without the need to lie.

Oh and thanks for the Tu Publishing link! I'll defiantly check them out! =D

You should probably also consider verb_noire for your publishing needs, if you haven't already!

Anonymous

January 17 2010, 04:14:43 UTC 7 years ago

THANK YOU for blogging about this. I learned about this from Gal Novelty blog who directed me to this post. I blogged about this issue here http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/2010/01/really-bloomsbury-im-done-publishing.html I plan on composing a longer, more lengthy and thorough post tomorrow. This is so annoying, it's ugh! I don't know how to describe it.

Anonymous

January 17 2010, 15:51:39 UTC 7 years ago

Bookshop,

Thanks for this post. I'll be blogging and linking to your post. For those who argue about hurting the author, the author has already been hurt. The publisher failed her book. They disrespected her. They betrayed the vision she created. And frankly, I support conscientious writers. If the writer is not disturbed, she is not a writer I would support in the future.

Bloomsbury has disrespected the readers. They changed the LIAR cover purely for financial reasons. Clearly this company is unconcerned about the readers who will boycott this book. They believe enough white readers and those POC who don't mind being marginalized will buy the book and many will. Many will dismiss or justify buying a book and say it's to help the author. You're not helping any writer who writes POC when you accept whitewashing.

Change comes at a cost. It is never easy.

Whitewashing is racist. It says no one is interested in any character other than the white standard. It says we do not value diversity. It says POC at best can be a sidekick. POC can earn the publisher money but we cannot represent them.

BULLSHIT.

More than twenty years ago I stopped shopping at mall because of it's racial practices and I've never gone back. I will do the same with Bloomsbury. And no gift box of books will change my opinion or spending habits. I'd just as well set Ceceka's business card on fire and lucky for the Bloomsbury staff at Mid-ALA that I won't be attending. I will however be speaking at the National Diversity in Libraries Conference this summer and I'll be sharing my opinion of Bloomsbury loud and clear.

Bloomsbury has shown it's true color. And I will be showing mine.

Anonymous

January 17 2010, 15:53:04 UTC 7 years ago

The last post is me, Susan aka LaTonya at Color Online.

Thank you for your comment, and for spreading the word.

Screened comment


A) the description I quoted in the post is from a review of the book; it is not an official part of the blurb itself. I will edit the post to make this explicit.

B) However, the first line of the book includes the words "Trouser Girls from the Exotic Land of Tassimi," and "exotic" is a word that is strongly coded as a word privileged white culture uses to describe non-white culture. I haven't read the book yet so I can't provide further authentication than that, but the Book Smugglers is a reputable blog and review site, and they are hardly going to make up a thing like this, especially since I've seen it verified in other places, by other confused book reviewers, as well.

C) I have never seen a mention to Nim's race on fabulousfrock's lj, and she has posted saying that she loves the cover (it is beautiful). However, is very unlikely that she is even in a position to speak out, seeing as this is her debut novel and to have a bad relationship with her publisher could cause her to be blacklisted from the industry.

But moreover, it doesn't matter whether the author approves the cover or not. Harm has already been done to the POC members of the audience. The author was taken out of the equation the moment the publisher chose to whitewash her book.
Anonymous,

Have you followed the debate/controversy before this book? Are you aware of the practice of whitewashing? Did you miss that is about more than this book in particular?

The author describes the MC as dark-skinned. Does the cover model look dark to you?

Bloomsbury and other publishers have a history of marginalizing POC authors and books with POC characters. I take issue with that. If you don't, you are part of the problem why this practice continues.

Before you tell the rest of us to read the book, I suggest you investigate the history of this practice, read the deluge of debates about the controversy and take a survey of your local bookstore YA section. Come back and tell us how many books do you see displayed with POC covers.

We know what we are fighting and why. I suggest you become informed before you chastise.

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bookshop

7 years ago

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Anonymous

7 years ago

bookshop

7 years ago

Anonymous

January 18 2010, 00:56:28 UTC 7 years ago

Willow,

The author and the book description says the MC is dark-skinned. How then do you say the publisher's cover is not an issue?

No one is criticizing the book. Where do you read anyone judging the book or author? By the way, I read your review and I see you don't talk about the cover. For someone who thinks whitewashing is a problem, you didn't catch it or you didn't care. Either way, the omission does not support your argument here that you think whitewashing is wrong.

And the author did say something. Read the review at Stella Matutina's.

". It would be nice to see a darker girl on the paperback.."

http://xicanti.livejournal.com/173376.html
See... this isn't so much a problem with Bloomsbury as it is most of the publishing world. What happens is that a cover artist will often get a little piece of the book, maybe a particular scene, and be asked to draw from that. It's often the same thing with someone writing the blurb for the back cover... they're given so little of the full product to work with that they'll get glaring obvious details wrong. Certainly Bloomsbury should have done a better job of getting the information to the right people, but they are by no means the only company to have this sort of problem.
Yes, it's more than Bloomsbury and other publishing houses. It's bloggers and readers who say,"Oh, that's wrong" and then take no actions that effectively address the issue. I'm tired of nice white people talking about how something is wrong and then going on without any action to correct the wrong. We need allies. We need support. Sympathy and guilt ain't gonna get it done. Do something.

Do see current TIC (http://coloronline.blogspot.com/2010/01/tic-news-bloomsbury-seeks-acquistions_18.html) post at Color Online and Celebrating MLK with A Protest (http://blackeyedsusans.blogspot.com/2010/01/celebrating-mlk-with-protest.html) at Black-Eyed Susan's.

I'm more than angry. I'm taking action.
I sent them a letter. Maybe we need a "Change the cover" fail!hunters site. As an aspiring novelist this sucks to read.

I think this is a great idea.
Er... lawd the design of that cover is awful.
Your post has been inclued in a Linkspam roundup
Came here from racebending. It's sad this is happening in this day and age.

Although for some reason the only thing I can think of when I look at the cover of that book is "She has a freakishly long torso"
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