Cover Controversy?!

It would seem the blogosphere, or at least segments of the blogosphere is abuzz with anger over the cover of Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore. I know some of you are thinking what’s the big deal over the cover, it’s very pretty, etc. How would you feel, though, if you heard the main character is a dark-skinned girl from the far-east and instead of using a dark-skinned girl for the cover model, Bloomsbury used a white girl? Yeah, it kind of sounds like Liar-gate all over again.

Personally I think it’s a poor decision not to feature a person of color on the cover of a book about a person of color. However, I’m not about to blame the author, as typically the author doesn’t get much of a choice over the cover. I wonder at the type of message this decision sends young girls of color. I wonder if the message sent is oh, a book featuring a dark-skinned character would never sell, because white people don’t want to buy books with dark people on the cover. Therefore, we don’t value non-white people as much as white people. Personally, I think that’s stupid. I think we need to wake up and smell the coffee and realize it’s 2010,  characters come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. Diversity is definitely not a bad thing, and one’s reading life can be so enriched with diversity! I know I’m not being very eloquent right now, but damn if I’m not angry that Bloomsbury seems to think I wouldn’t buy a book with a girl on the cover who is a different color from me. That’s messed up. Why would they assume white people don’t care to read about people of color? Do they honestly think I don’t read to learn about people with different life experiences with me?Or that I only want to read about people who are the exact same as me? Fuck that noise. I want diversity in my life. I want to read about people who don’t share my life experiences. I want to read and connect with characters who may look different from me, but share things in common with me, i.e. a sassy-personality. I’m thinking I want to include more books with POC cover-models and more books written by POC authors in my reading this year. Now, I won’t boycott buying from Bloomsbury, as someone mentioned that would onlyu hurt the author, but I will definitely voice my disapproval in a public forum, my blog and encourage all of you to do so and raise awareness over this issue. While you are at it, why not support POC authors? Why not read and blog about a book with a POC on the cover? I think that’s something simple we all can do.

To learn more about this controversy check out these blogs:

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Hear hear!!!

    thats really disgusting for them to do that…whats the point of even doing that?

    You could start a reading challenge this year about POC…

    That would get the awareness out there 🙂

    I would join!!!

  2. Angela Craft says

    What's also disappointing (and I thought of this after I made my own blog post at my blog), is that not only is this another case of whitewashing, but it's whitewashing on a fantasy book, where characters of color have even less representation than in main stream fiction.

    I also wish there was something we could do that had the same impact as a boycott but wouldn't harm the authors who rarely have a say in their cover (and from what the author said in another blog, her cover was set before the Liar controversy erupted, but there was no move to update hers). I am going to start making special mention of the covers in my blog posts about books with characters of color and write in to the *publishers* when they do accurately portray the characters on their covers. Positive reinforcement and all that.

  3. Jenn (Books At Midnight) says

    Great post! While those covers annoy my, that don't make me extremely angry, mainly because I'm not sure why publishers do that. If it's a racial statement, then I definitely disagree though.

  4. WilowRaven says

    Book covers don't always portray characters accurately and sometimes it's something as simple as hair color differences – The Naughty List and Another Faust come to mind.

    I was very happy when the cover of Liar was changed. Not portaying a MC as a POC is just wrong and silly.

    With Magic Under Glass…I'm a little confused. The MC Nimira isn't from the far-east. She's from "Tiansher" – a fictitious country in a fantasy land. In other words – it's not real.

    I'm really curious as to how this controversy started. I might have to read the book again because I honestly don't remember the color of Nim's skin being stated. She might have been called 'dark-skinned' but this term would be relative. Without knowing the skin color of the other beings in this world, how could we know exactly how Nim looks?

    I would love to know how the author herself feels about this!

  5. great post!
    While I know characters on book covers rarely look just as they are described in the book, the main features should at least be there. Once you see a character on the book cover it is sometimes hard to picture them looking like anything else.

  6. April,

    I do believe in boycotting. I realize the potential loss to the author but I do not believe publishers will change until the revenue stream is affected.

    It is insulting to all readers to think that POC cover will not sell. On the other hand, I read hundreds of blogs and I can name less than 10 that regularly feature books by or about people of color. It's easy to blame the publisher.

    I disagree with Kristie about that I am unfairly picking on my peers. I explicit called on and have reached out to bloggers before to blog brown. How many bloggers among the major sites like Story Siren increased their promotion of books with people of color on them?

    If race is a non-issue why is there so little color in the YA blogosphere?

    I am not accusing any blogger of being a bad person. I am asking what are you doing to change what is wrong? I believe that is a fair question.

    Lastly, I don't expect or demand agreement. I do believe I have a right to freely say what I think as long as I am respectful. I have made no disparaging remarks about anyone's character. In fact, what I have been questioning is behavior because it is our action that matters. Words are empty if we don't act on them.

    Thanks for talking about diversity. It is appreciated.

  7. choco (In Which a Girl Reads) says

    Awesome post!

    I haven't read Magic Under Glass, so I had no idea of the whitewashing until I read a blog post about it a few days ago. What makes me the most mad is that it's the SAME publisher!


  8. MissAttitude says

    Wonderful post thank you! I've made a longer post
    because it's so insulting and upsetting that publishers think white teens won't read about poc.
    Most will and the few that won't, too bad for them, they'll be missing out.

    @WillowRaven- "dark skinned" traditionally means a person of color. I would not refer to a tan person as "dark skinned". Based on excerpts I've seen/comments by tue author/the book trailer, you can clearly see that she viewed the mc as a poc. I recommend you watch her book trailer.

    @choco-Same here, the same publisher! Fooled me once, shame on you, fooled me twice, shame on me.

  9. Debbie's World of Books says

    Honestly I may be bad but I tend not to get worked up over things like this. We will never know if it was a conscious decision by the publisher to put a white girl vs a colored girl on the cover. From what I've read and heard from some authors is often a cover is designed or a stock photo is picked based of a short description of the book. The person designing the cover has rarely even read the book. Who knows if a physical description of the character was included in the summary they received.

    That said it would be nice to see more variety of ethnicities on book covers. I can't recall having seen any asians on the covers of YA books either.

  10. I never thought about it, but it kind of is like calling us racist by assuming we can't handle books with black characters on them. Where are the facts to support your statements Bloomsbury – we want statistics if you have them!

    And yes more books with characters from other racial backgrounds this year, I looked back over my list at the end of 2009 thinking I'd read pretty diversely but I'd read something like 9 books by authors of another race and fifteen or something shoddy like that with characters of another race than mine. It's so easy to say you're into diversity and be committed to things like supporting bloggers of other races, signing petitions but as Susan and Colleen say committment to diversity needs to be an everyday thing and I'm certainly going to try harder this year.

  11. Juju at Tales of says

    Good points!

  12. You know, I didn't really think the cover thing was a big deal until I really started thinking abut it in greater detail. And then I got so offended. Not only does it degrade people of color, but it also makes so many assumptions about white people, too. It assumes that only white people read and implies that anything written by a person of color must obviously only be marketable to an "ethnic" crowd. It's a really shaky stance to take, and I am so glad to see your post and everyone else's against it.