Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Someone must have read the book in the meantime

the ARC:




the finished book:




Deirdre Baker has some pertinent thoughts (from "Musings on Diverse Worlds," Horn Book Magazine, January/February 2007):

In some cases, where the politics of inclusivity is not in the foreground of the story, the racial attributes of nonwhite heroes are rendered virtually invisible. Both Ged of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series and Eugenides of Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief and sequels are described explicitly as "dark-skinned." Indeed, in conversation Turner has said that the images in her head of the Eddisians were "deeply influenced by the people of the Himalayas." But the brown skins of Ged and of Eugenides are downplayed by the books' current cover art, which shows Ged to be as bronzed as a white surfer (The Tombs of Atuan, 2001 edition) and Eugenides to have a noticeably pink and white complexion (The King of Attolia, 2006). While the texts give nonwhite readers the opportunity to see themselves reflected in these heroes, the cover art is telling them something else.

I'm glad this cover art changed its mind!

12 comments:

web said...

Oh, that makes me so crazy! I never understand why I never see anyone else point it out, either. Glad they got on the ball with this one.

Mitali Perkins said...

Oh my goodness, the second model looks like my son ... For once a brown boy's a hero!

Melinda said...

I'm not at home (power's still out due to ice storm) so I can't cite the exact source, but in one of her essays, Ms. LeGuin talks about how publishers hate to have interracial characters on book covers because it supposedly reduces sales. She's had lots of trouble with this in the past. Too bad they haven't figured it out yet!

emay said...

The second kid has way better hair for a hero.

Anonymous said...

It's not just fantasy. I have always been outraged by the cover of Chris Crutcher's Whale Talk, which shows a white boy running. The protagonist is, in his own words, "African-American, Japanese-American and what? Northern European-American?" And a swimmer.

Even on the paperback edition, the cover is unchanged.

Anonymous said...

the artist didn't read the book (maybe had a precis or flap copy from first edition), the art director knew it was an IMPORTANT BOOK but hadn't read it, the editor who was "handling" the reprint had seventeen other projects, Sales and Marketing approved the art - and that's what really matters.

web said...

_Whale Talk_ was the book that first made me aware of this issue. I've been seeing more subtle disguising in the last couple of years - instead of showing someone who looks white, they hide the issue by showing just the characters legs. Still pisses me off. And I have never seen any reviewer besides me mention it, which pisses me off even more.

Roger Sutton said...

Anon, this is a new book, not a reprint. I'm guessing the art department just went for standard-fantasy-boy-hunk-hero, which defaults to white, until somebody said "wait a minute." The point is that they did change the cover to accurately reflect the book, which is what we want, yes?

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember Ursula Le Guin complaining about this issue when they made a TV version of the Earthsea books a while back and cast the very white Shawn Ashmore as the male lead.

In addition, am I the only one who thinks this is a really, really cheesy cover irrespective of the ethnic issue? You'd think they'd do better for an author this distinguished. It looks like a comp they threw together in about ten minutes.

So many meetings, so little taste...

Brooke said...

Betsy Bird recently pointed out how the character of Sticky Washington was changed from brown to white on the cover of The Mysterious Benedict Society. Whoops.

As for Whale Talk, I always assumed the kid on the cover was supposed to be the mentally retarded character -- the one who wants to wear his older brother's letter jacket, and who is white. Eh, it's a pretty lame cover nonetheless.

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