Magic Under Glass: The White-Washing Of Young Adult Fiction Continues

Illustration for article titled Magic Under Glass: The White-Washing Of Young Adult Fiction Continues

Last year, Bloomsbury chose a white cover model for a YA novel about a black girl. They fixed it — but now they've done it again.


Outcry over the white-washing of Justine Larbalestier's Liar prompted Bloomsbury to issue a new cover featuring a black girl, and to apologize (kind of). But now Bloomsbury is publishing Jaclyn Dolamore's Magic Under Glass, a book about a "dark-skinned" girl from the "far East" — with the cover pictured above. As Book Smugglers points out, "the girl in the US covers is definitely white." Aja Romano of Bookshop speculates that while Larbalestier was able to get her cover changed, debut novelist Dolamore has less clout:

[I]t 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.

Romano and others are calling for a boycott of Bloomsbury to punish them for their racist cover design practices. And indeed, the cover of Magic Under Glass looks like proof that the whitewashing of Liar wasn't a one-time mistake, but, as Larbalestier said at the time, evidence of a systemic problem: publishers and sales departments buying into the self-fulfilling prophecy that "black covers don't sell." But boycotting books hurts the writers as well as the publisher, and, as Reading In Color notes, Magic Under Glass's cover isn't Dolamore's fault. RIC continues:

I do not think a boycott of Magic Under Glass is the best way to go as the author has worked really hard on her book and she wrote about a person of color and we should be grateful for that especially since the book has gotten good reviews. In fact, I'll probably review it (so at least this issue promoted some good discussion and hopefully change as well as introducing me to a new book I may have otherwise missed). We should keep blogging, emailing, writing about this issue.

I agree that calling out Bloomsbury — and complaining to them directly — is a better response than punishing authors for their publishers' prejudices. If you'd like to do so, Bookshop provides contact info for Bloomsbury: tell them what you think.

New Year's Resolution #7: Stop Buying YA From Bloomsbury [Bookshop]
An Open Letter To Bloomsbury Kids USA. Other Publishing Houses Take Note [Reading In Color]
Celebrating MLK With A Protest [Black-Eyed Susan's Books & Other Passions]
Book Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore [Book Smugglers]


Earlier: Are "Black Covers" Segregated In Bookstores?
"Whitewashed" Book Gets A New Cover



I wonder: If they "know" that the book won't sell with a black girl/woman on the cover, why not choose an inanimate object to put on the cover and let people be surprised (pleasantly or unpleasantly so) as they read the story? Then there won't be angry calls related to the misrepresentation of the heroine, and the book sells. How sad that in this day and age we still really do judge a book by it's cover.