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Saturday, January 16, 2010

STOP FAILING BLOOMSBURY, aka The Bloomsbury Whitewashing Cover Legacy, Redux

So, I'm sure that everyone remembers the Liar cover controvery, right? (And if not, here's a gathered links roundup to find out.) There was a big brouhaha over it, then Bloomsbury decided to redo the covers and we all sighed with relief, thinking that after all the emails and blog posts and comments, Bloomsbury finally realized that whitewashing is not down.

Then, I come acroos this post


Okay, basic summary of the situation: There is a debut novel out there called Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, and our protagonist is apparently written into the text as dark-skinned.


... Damn, I don't know about you, but that girl there sure looks whitey-white to me!!

And GUESS WHO MADE THE COVER FOR THIS BOOK? That's right, BLOOMSBURY. Aka the same publishing house who did the Liar cover. Dun, dun, dun.

It was like Bloomsbury's last minute change to the Liar cover was just a bandaid. Oh the blogging audience is protesting, we'll change the Liar cover so that they'll stop spreading the bad press! Surely there's no actual truth to the idea that whitewashing is a long, historical problematic practice in the publishing land that still continues to this day and we are only appeasing the crowd because we're benevolent like that!

Well you know what, Bloomsbury? You just lost yourself an audience member here. As they say, fool me once, shame on you; fool me TWICE, shame on me. I'm sure that Magic Under Glass is a lovely novel, but I won't pay a cent for it if it means I have to support this particular publishing house. I can wait for a copy to turn up in my library or in a second hand bookstore to read it, thank you very much. There are other publishing houses starting up that BELIEVE in diversity (such as TU Publishing and Verb Noire) and I believe my money will be better spent there.

Also, I'm simply FILLED with curiousity over the history in Bloomsbury's whitewashing cover practices. Will do my best to look into that, but for now, will be off to write Very Angry Emails to the marketing staff. Later, peeps.


in which a girl reads said...

Amazing amazing post! I haven't read Magic Under Glass so I didn't know the main character was supposed to be dark-skinned. I agree, the cover is pretty off on that count. What I really can't believe is that it's the same publisher who's already gone through this with Liar! Wow...I guess they really don't care about staying true to a book, or promoting diversity. There's already more than enough white characters in YA--and then they have to go whitewash novels with a more diverse character cast.

This makes me really, really mad.


P.s. I love the word brouhaha! :D

yuan said...


I haven't read Magic Under Glass yet either, but found out from very informative blog posts. (Hence proving once again how blogs are awesome like that) But when I did ohhhhh man, was I pissed.

P.S. hehe, I even got it to alliterate! (I'm such a geek, I know. x.x)

Michelle (su[shu]) said...

I didn't know about the Liar controversy, and so this is the first time I'm hearing about something like this. Seems very unfair to both the author and the book that Bloomsbury makes the final decision on book covers without consulting the author first. I mean, the cover's the first thing we see of a book, and more often than not we get our first impressions there.

Great post here Ah Yuan. Good to spread the truth about things.

Adriana said...

I haven't read Magic Under Glass yet, so I didn't know about the character. It's really sad that they would do this again, especially after the controversy with Liar.

Emma said...

I hate it when covers do not portray protagonists properly. Have you seen the She's So Money cover? She's asian in the book, but not on the cover. Growl.

I will be reading this one, but at the library. I wonder what the author thinks about this.

Doret said...

Again. F***. Bloomsbury might have to go on my list but first I will read Magic Under The Glass to see for myself. The bookstore I work at carries this book. (So no money will be spent on it)

I've never had the urge to read Magice Under The Glass book before now, because there's a White Girl on the cover, and it doesn't stand out from all the other YA covers with White girls on the cover.

Ah Yuan, thanks so much for this post and the links, I would've totally missed this.

MissA said...

I'm so beyond furious right now. AGAIN?! Ok I definitely need to go read the post you linked to and then write an angry blog post. I am so with you, I'm done w/ Bloomsbury. What really makes me angry though besides them just slapping a band-aid on the Liar issue but that NO OTHER BLOGGER has pointed this out! 've read at least 3 reviews of this book and no one has mentioned that the mc is dark skinned but the cover model is light.

yuan said...


lol, the fiasco over the Liar cover was most pronounced in the YA blogger sphere (with some livejournal involvement) so I guess if you don't frequent the YA blogs you wouldn't hear about it. Also, I've been informed that the authors have very, veryyyyyyyyyyy little input on their covers and it's completely in the hands of the marketing staff, though they may let you have some input if you're, say, a best-selling author on NYT. And as Dolamore is a debut author, my guess is that she had little to no say on this, if ANY say at all. Which is stupid and says something about Bloomsbury's marketing staff. Natch.


Oh yes, I'm seriously sad about this, but also filled with incredible RAGE. So much rage. D<


oh gawd, about SSM, I KNOW. The cover makes me cry a little inside. And another sign of how PREVALENT white-washing covers are.

I'm crossing my fingers hoping I can get it in my library so I can read it with my own eyes, but I probably won't get it for a while because my local library sucks when it comes to getting new books.



I am looking forward to what you have to say about MUG. =D


What really makes me angry though besides them just slapping a band-aid on the Liar issue but that NO OTHER BLOGGER has pointed this out!

... Omg that is true!! Now that I think about it, in the YA blogger world, I didn't hear anyyyyyy thing about the discrepancy between the MC and the cover model AT ALL. (In the Livejournal meta sphere you hear some outrage about this here and there, at the very least.) Makes me wonder about the silence of YA bloggers. =/

Do check out bookshop's post. She's very eloquent and explains everything far better than I.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for spreading the word about this.

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zetta said...

un-f***ing-believable. thanks for breaking this story--I had no idea...

Ana S. said...

Again?! ARGH.

Color Online said...

Ah Yuan,


Bloomsbury will get an email but I want to know why teen bloggers themselves are not outraged by the disrespect? Bloomsbury is essentially saying teen readers do not care about larger issues, that diversity does not matter to you. They are disrespecting you by continuing with their whitewashing practices when some of you were very vocal in the LIAR controversy. In effect they are calling teen bloggers shallow and fickle.

When are teen bloggers going to do more than promote books they love? When will teen bloggers express outrage when the publishing industry fails to respect readers and fail to conduct their business in a socially and morally conscious way?

susan said...

You rock. Can I republish your post from Story Siren.

God bless you!

Color Online said...

I tried playing nice and all it got me was the same status quo. Do see current TIC post at Color Online and Celebrating MLK with A Protest at Black-Eyed Susan's.

I'm more than angry. I'm taking action.

yuan said...


Sure you can repulish. =D

@Color Online,

Will check out posts, thank you for linking. =D

Anonymous said...

I have been reading different blog posts on this issue and reading your comments on them. I must say, your points are freakin' brilliant!


DontBoxSarah said...

Hey, THANK YOU for talking about this. I'm a children's book buyer at an independent bookstore. I reguarly refuse to carry books that whitewash their covers or otherwise promote oppression but the problem is systematic and much more widereaching than just changing the character's race on the cover. I have a (rather lengthy) post up on my blog talking about all this and about what to do if you're interested:

Anonymous said...

What is simply awful is that this happens at all, but what's worse, that people fail to remember a couple of things:

1) That this cover was decided upon BEFORE JL's "LIAR" hit the presses so that the decision to make this cover was before there was a public outcry. Remember: this isn't a brush-off response by Bloomsbury, just a sign of their aforementioned practices. (Still, if they'd learned anything, they should have pulled the cover ASAP.)

2) One should NEVER blame or hurt the author. Note that J. Dolamore actually *wrote* a great book with a POC main character. Don't punish her or her fine story because the publisher screwed the cover. We want people to publish and read stories with diversity, and certainly encourage authors to keep doing so, so my heart weeps for poor JD who doesn't have the pull of JL. That's hardly fair.

3) We're angry & we have every right to be angry. Writing letters, bloggin important posts like these, getting our friends and professionals on board and making it heard is perfect. Banning isn't. I'd much rather wait to see what the UK cover will look like and order that, if appropriate (it's what people did when they wanted to show support for LIAR but not its cover). Think about buying MAGIC UNDER GLASS's UK edition. That way you can support a good story, a great POC protag & tell Bloomsbury that they better listen to the US!

My $0.02.

yuan said...


Thank you for linking, I'll be sure to check it out asap.


Hmm, correct me if I'm wrong, but your comment seems to be made under the assumption that I'm advocating banning or attempting to punish the author. I'd like to be clear and say first and foremost that I'm NOT advocating any such thing. My post was made in protest over Bloomsbury's whitewashing practices. I raised an outcry and demanded change. As I've stated in my post, I will *not* consider buying the novel with such a cover or from this publishing house. I'm not singling out Magic Under Glass for this decision, this goes for any Bloomsbury title, period. The only exception I'll be making to this will be for titles like Liar or Book of a Thousand Days which do have POC faces on the cover. Otherwise, I'm not shelling out any dough. And I do not believe that this decision is "punishing" the author because, as I've said in the post, I fully intend on getting a copy of Magic Under Glass by other means and as my library is going to get a copy of this novel on order, I'll be reading my library copy. Getting a library copy is a way for me to support Jaclyn Dolamore WITHOUT personally paying Bloomsbury a cent, and I will do this for all other Bloomsbury titles I wish to read. This is for the same reason why I won't be buying the UK edition because it is also published under the Bloomsbury house. Also, there are quite a number of other novels out there with diversity that isn't part of the Bloomsbury line and I have been, and shall continue, to buy and promote these novels. As for your first point of the cover being finalized, they had six months to pull and revamp the cover. The fact that they didn't means that they are fully willing to continue with this racist publishing practice in the name of making money, and it is disgusting and I won't support them by buying their goods.

This, in any case, is my personal approach to this topic. I understand that others will take their own stance on this issue with their own discretion and I'm all for it. However, I would really like if we could sincerely take about whitewashing and what we can do to combat this. THAT is a conversation I'm eager to have.