Sunday, January 17, 2010

No Magic for Bloomsbury: Whitewashing, Business As Usual

I've been offline for a few days and I come back to learn that Bloomsbury is mocking us once more. I stopped at Fledgling and Zetta alerted me to Ari (the most amazing teen blogger on the planet) at Reading in Color who alerted me to Ah Yuan at Gal Novelty (clearly becoming my other most favorite teen blog to visit) and Ah Yuan directed me to Bookshop. Kudos to Bookshop for calling Bloomsbury out for their latest whitewashing, Magic Under the Glass by Jacqlyn Dolmore.

Nimira is a performer, dancing and singing in search of fortune, after migrating from Tassim, in the far East... in Lorinar, she is nothing but a dark-skinned amusement, a novelty “trouser girl” who earns nothing but pennies and whose number comes after acrobats and trained dogs in the music hall she is employed at. ... Nim was a breath of fresh air. For starters, she is dark-skinned and from a different culture; she is strong without being kick-ass: she cries when she has to cry, she fights when she has to fight, she adapts when she has to adapt. She is resilient, she is practical – and she is proud! Proud of her heritage and past.

Clearly, Bloomsbury doesn't take us seriously. Obviously they think teen bloggers are too shallow and fickle to call them out.

Well, there is a growing band of YA bloggers who are outraged and we are not going to be silent. We are going to continue to publicly criticize whitewashing, demand greater diversity in POC genre options and characters and we will snap our wallets shut until we get change. We are not only going to call out the industry but we're calling bloggers and readers on the carpet, too.

The Industry behaves in part based on what the consumer accepts. It is time to call out peers for failing to stand up for what's right. I'm not talking name calling, I'm talking about publicly calling on our peers to speak up, asking YA bloggers to join us in promoting POC writers and denouncing unfair practices at publishing houses.

I am sick of the excuses and head plunking in the sand. Teens, particularly you teen girls, stop taking the disrespect. Stop allowing the publishing industry to treat you like silly little girls who gush and fantasize over one model of beauty. You have no problem telling adults otherwise when they are wrong in what they think about you so why do you accept them selling you a stick figure with perfect skin, gorgeous hair and white skin?

Below is my letter at Bookshop's and Bloomsbury has a personal message coming. Speak up people.


Thanks for this post. I'll be blogging and linking to your post. For those who argue about hurting the author, the author has already been hurt. The publisher failed her book. They disrespected her. They betrayed the vision she created. And frankly, I support conscientious writers. If the writer is not disturbed, she is not a writer I would support in the future.

Bloomsbury has disrespected the readers. They changed the LIAR cover purely for financial reasons. Clearly this company is unconcerned about the readers who will boycott this book. They believe enough white readers and those POC who don't mind being marginalized will buy the book and many will. Many will dismiss or justify buying a book and say it's to help the author. You're not helping any writer who writes POC when you accept whitewashing.

Change comes at a cost. It is never easy.

Whitewashing is racist. It says no one is interested in any character other than the white standard. It says we do not value diversity. It says POC at best can be a sidekick. POC can earn the publisher money but we cannot represent them.

BULLCRAP. *edited. I hate offending unnecessarily.

More than twenty years ago I stopped shopping at mall because of it's racial practices and I've never gone back. I will do the same with Bloomsbury. And no gift box of books will change my opinion or spending habits. I'd just as well set Ceceka's business card on fire and lucky for the Bloomsbury staff at Mid-ALA that I won't be attending. I will however be speaking at the National Diversity in Libraries Conference this summer and I'll be sharing my opinion of Bloomsbury loud and clear.

Bloomsbury has shown it's true color. And I will be showing mine.


Ana S. said...

Gah :\ I'm disappointed, but not really surprised. The way they handled the Liar situation - changing the cover, but not once acknowledging that they'd messed up badly or apologising - made me wonder whether they really cared. I guess this is our answer.

Amanda said...

Jen from Multi-Genre fan just posted about this today as well. What a sad world we live in. This is absolutely ridiculous. And I have to be honest - in seeing the cover of this book, I just dismissed it as another historical fantasy book with a dainty girl in a corset. No thanks. But if it had been someone of Middle-Eastern descent with olive coloring and flowing black hair or something, I would have thought, wow, they did something different, maybe I should look into this book. What's sad is their white-washing actually made me dismiss the book, and therefore for them to lose money.

Wendy said...

Agreed--this is a gorgeous cover design, but the only thing that would have made me look at it again would have been a gorgeous girl of color pictured.

Color Online said...

"But if it had been someone of Middle-Eastern descent with olive coloring and flowing black hair or something, I would have thought, wow, they did something different, maybe I should look into this book."

Amanda, I'm so there with you. What will it take for publishers to get we want more than the status quo?

Zetta said...

What's really hard to understand is that editors at other big (and small) presses are openly seeking fantasy stories that feature people of color. Yet instead of capitalizing off of the demand for such stories, Bloomsbury went ahead with the whitewash...they truly don't care, and as a writer of color, I will neither buy their books nor submit my work to them. Here's a link to the trailer, where the girl is clearly of color:

Color Online said...

Let's hope more writers will look to alternative presses like Tu Publishing.

MissA said...

I agree with wendy, I would have done a double take if I had seen this gorgeous cover with a girl of color on the cover. Arghhh the worst part is that it's the same company and that my fellow teen bloggers have not said anything/wil not/are not going to say anything!

Thank goodness for you, Doret, Nymeth, Zetta, Wendy and other great bloggers :) Yay Tu Publishing!

Michelle (su[shu]) said...

I first read about this from Ah Yuan's blog. I think it's really bad that they think they can get away with it. Like what I said on Ana's blog, it feels like it's already become a habit for them, something they do out of convenience.

It's great that you're taking such a strong stand. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog, Susan - and I think you are quite eloquent here! Glad you're joining in the call for bloggers to start calling out whitewashing and promoting POC writers, stories and covers!

Anonymous said...

I think we have one of our series topics. This has just gotten way out of hand. And yes, I hope you do show up and show out.

susan said...

Okay, I just left another limp discussion about why boycotting will hurt the writer. Well, yes, if enough people actually didn't buy the book, she would lose something. But what is she or anyone one else gain by waging a polite complain. And how do you wage a civil campaign anyway?

This is what I said and I stand by it:

Okay, guys I hear you and I do say boycott the publisher. The publisher is going to pay attention to lost revenue. You all just agreed the dollar has power by telling readers to buy brown. Well, if you buy Magic, you're sending a conflicting message.

When black people stopped riding the bus, a lot of black families and their employers felt it in a real way. We stayed off the bus for over a year.

Change comes at price. Change hurts. If it doesn't hurt, Bloomsbury isn't going to change.

There are going to consumers who will buy the book. Some of them will be good-hearted like you here, not willing to 'hurt' the author. Wasn't she disrespected and out of the loop from the onset when she had no say so?

LaCoccinelle, I disagree, you don't buy and you write the publisher. If enough write and don't buy, Bloomsbury will know exactly why the book isn't selling.

Some of us know that most authors have no say so, but is this the time to cry "don't forget about me?" If you want to match wounds, let's talk about not only not getting POC on the cover of your book, let's talk about not getting published or not being promoted. How many POC titles do you regularly see reviewed on blogs or on the shelves in bookstores?

Some of us asked readers and bloggers during the LIAR controversy to blog brown. How many here have increased the number of POC reviews on your blogs? What's the last POC title you promoted?

I am more than outraged. I gave Bloomsbury a chance and they smacked me upside the head again. Well, I'm a grown woman and I don't take abuse lightly.

Protect the author by continuing to accept whitewashing. Buying the book and asking for change isn't going to get it done. When did being polite ever bring about radical change and radical change is what needs to happen.

Jodie said...

I'm really glad Fledgling alerted me to Ari's post (been away and haven't been blog reading much this week). Y'know you think wow a publisher changed it's cover (which Justine Larbalestier always said was a big deal financially and logistically when they agreed to do it)and then you realise that in part they were creating a smokescreen for all the other books, published before Liar where they'd used the same tactic.

And polite vs angry campaign is a hard balence to strike - you get angry and the people you want to change their ways shut down and nothing gets done, you're polite and they see you as a none threat. It seems the money angle is the only way to really engage, when I started my blog I never thought I'd have to apply ethical buying to my book choices, but I see it's become necessary.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Whitewashing is insulting and frustrating! I'll add in when the cover has some cute, slim chic when the main character is described as overweight or normal build. I wish the cover reflected the characters. Give us credit for appreciating differences and don't just choose cover images to fit one "audience". Ugh.

Thanks for contributing to this conversation!

Anonymous said...


I am appalled that Bloomsbury has whitewashed yet again. My library's teens will be hearing about this outrage; I hope to use the book as a starting point for a discussion about the harm of whitewashing. I'd love to run a "make an appropriate cover" contest, and use the winner as our copy's cover.

In my personal life, I will be boycotting Bloomsbury until they demonstrate a commitment to putting people of color on their book covers, not just in their manuscripts.

(For those who followed earlier posts' comment threads, I am also ~jl. Thank you again for the wonderful discussions there.)

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