As writers, there is very little in our control concerning our manuscript. What we can do is simply write the best we can, then with a little hope, perseverance, and networking, get our best writing into the hands of agents, publishers, book reviewers, and readers. Along the way, a lot is out of our control. Which agent will like my manuscript the best? Which editors does that agent know--and which will want the manuscript? How much marketing will the publisher provide? Will the readers like it?
And what will be on the cover?
They're important questions--and they all matter. The wrong answer to any of those questions could make or break your book. Whether we like it or not, we live in a society that judges the book by its cover.
To the left is Justine Larbalestier's latest book, LIAR. Isn't that a stunning cover? The narrator of the book, a pathological liar, has her lying mouth covered by her own hair. It's gorgeous--and the thing that made me plan on buying a hard cover instead of waiting for a paperback.
There's only one problem.
That isn't the narrator.
The author describes the narrator as:
"Micah is black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short."
Now, there are a few arguments pro the white girl on the book cover.
First, the symbolic argument:
“The cover works symbolically,” said Catherine Linka, children’s and young adult book buyer at Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, Calif. “We have a character who is hiding a lot, and the cover does a wonderful job of communicating that secrecy—the bangs, the hair crisscrossing across the face.”(This argument, by the way, is invalid to me, as they could have as easily done this with a black model instead of a white one.)
Second, the "she's just a liar anyway" argument:
"One of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that it’s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesn’t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true."
(This argument, by the way, is refuted by the author herself: "In an interview with PW, Larbalestier, who is married to Uglies author Scott Westerfeld, said Micah told the truth about her race.")
In the end, I think the publisher just didn't think it mattered.
But they're wrong.
This kind of inherent racism, exclusionary tactics, an underlying belief that white is more marketable than color--that white is actually preferable to color... Seeing it, addressing it, and confronting it...
[For more on the topic: E. Lockheart's own experience with racism on covers, the PW Article on the topic, the author's blog on the topic.]
So, I'm dying to know: what do YOU think about this?