Well, I suppose this is a happy ending. Remember the drama improved?surrounding the whitewash of the cover of the YA novel, LIAR? If not, here is a recap in 140 characters or less: Main character is a black girl, but Bloomsbury put a white girl on the cover. After being questioned by readers, the author spoke out, the blogosphere and twitterverse joined in. Bloomsbury insists the whole thing was a big misunderstanding. (Since the character is a liar, who’s to say that she’s not just pretending to be black? Hence the image. #fail.) Now there is a new cover! (Yay, right?)
Micah, the main character of Liar, is dark and wears a short natural haircut. But the new cover girl for LIAR looks like Corrine Bailey Rae!
This is where things get tricky. Twenty-five years ago, many African American parents, librarians, and readers would be concerned that dark-skinned black girls feel marginalized by the prevalence of images of light-skinned girls. (And let us not forget that Alice Walker writes so lovingly of Their Eyes Were Watching God because Janie was the first dark-skinned heroine she had ever read about. And then, Alice Walker gave us Celie, Nettie, and Shug. This representation issue is real. It’s not just talk.) But now, since Bloomsbury took the cover situation to the next level by putting an actual white model on the cover, the new cover (which triggers my inner Pecola Breedlove) is considered to be a victory.
But seriously, this who situation has been very distressing to me. As a brown-skinned kinky-haired black woman who reads and writes about the same, I feel very disrespected as a reader, a writer, and a human being.

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One Response to Progress?

  1. Doug Seibold says:

    Tayari, I would love to hear your broader thoughts some day (if you haven’t already furnished them here already, and I’ve just missed them) about the generally fraught issue of books by black authors featuring images of black people on their covers. The hall-of-mirrors ironies abounding with the Justine Larbalestier book have dizzied me. I remember (about 15 years ago) when there was a conventional wisdom that bookstores (and readers) would resist books with images of black people on the cover–regardless of the author’s ethnicity–for all the bad old reasons. At that time, it seemed, black authors were fighting to get such images on their covers. Then, as it became apparent to publishers that there really was a huge and eager audience of black readers after all (this was through mid to late-nineties–and I know, I know, why was *that* so hard to figure out?), the situation evolved rather rapidly to the point where publishers began to press resistant authors to *ensure* their books featured images of black people on their covers. Now, it seems, I’ve heard rumblings from many black authors (some of whom I’ve published), that they don’t want to have images of black people on their book covers, kind of for the same or similar reasons, it appears, that they don’t like Borders’ African-American fiction section. So this Liar situation is cropping up at the end of what’s already been a pretty complicated continuum. What do you think?