When I showcase books with other ethnic groups or no faces, interests is always higher. A quick search through my past In My Mailbox posts will support my observations. Recently I showcased Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice. The novel is about a mother and daughter. They happen to be black but the cover art is a garden so race isn't an immediate marker. Their names might suggest they're black but a reader might not assume the race. Instead of the majority of readers commenting as usual,"I've never heard of that" some readers commented they might check the book out.
And to answer your original question, in Orange Mint and Honey, the main character has an impressive garden so the cover art makes sense. But I think the issue of being pigeon-holed was a factor in not using black models. I'm not certain, but I'm going to ask Carleen.
I don't overlook books based on the race of the characters or author or the cover art. I regularly read about books on blogs that I have never heard of yet I manage to genuienly say more than "I never heard of that" and I do express interest in many of the titles. Every time we have this discussion about race, white readers inevitably say race doesn't matter. If it doesn't matter why aren't they reading books by black writers and I mean more than the icons like Morrison and Angelou? It's like the joke about everybody having the same black friend.
I'm very interested in hearing why we don't see more books with people of color on the cover being showcased on teen blogs. I have had this discussion before with a teen reviewer and she said part of the reason is that most teen reviewers are focused on books they get for review and they have only been reading YA for a short time. I think this only partly explains the absence of color. What explains the lack of expressed interest in these titles when they are exposed to them? While I do focus on realistic fiction, I've also highlighted teen romance and non-fiction; neither generated any any more interest.
Now some will ask what about YA authors like Rita Williams Garcia and Coe Booth? I'd say well these are seasoned writers who've been featured on readergirlz. Ask a teen blogger to name another black author. Then ask if they've actually read the author. There is a difference when we talk about other ethnicities. Asian writers and Asian characters seem to get more attention, and I think this is for two reasons: 1) the genres- fantasy and teen chick lit and 2) Asian characters are perceived as more assimilated with the majority. The more the characters are similar to white characters the more they are embraced.Do I need to pull out a fire hose at this point? I don't say any of this to be polemic or critical. I am using this exercise as an opportunity to talk about an elephant that sometimes I feel is not just in the room but standing on my chest. I'd like to know what will it take for white teens to read popular fiction with black faces on the cover. I've read books without my face on the cover my entire reading life.
Now if I didn't just completely blacklist myself, can we have a real and extended dialogue here?
I'm going to pass on answering the other questions. To read more contributors' thoughts go here.