Not Again, Bloomsbury

Other bloggers have written better posts that I possible can about this latest controversy, so included at the end of the posts are many helpful posts written by some talented people.

This week another #Bloomsburyfail has come to light. After what should have been an embarrassing failure with the whitewashing of Justine Larbalestier’s cover of Liar, Bloomsbury has whitewashed the cover of another YA book. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore features a dark-skinned protagonist. But the cover of Magic Under Glass features a Caucasian girl instead of someone who looks more like the main character. I’ve read a few great reviews about this book and it sounds like the main character is someone whose adventures I would love to read about. But I can’t buy this book or any other books published by Bloomsbury. Instead I’m boycotting all books published by Bloomsbury.

Comments around the Blogisphere

It’s disappointed me that many people who have been commenting around the blogisphere don’t understand how hurtful Bloomsbury actions are. If you’re not on Twitter, you probably wouldn’t know that I’m an African American woman. Instead you know I’m just Vasilly, another blogger.  I am so much more than the skin I’m in but when others decide that my color isn’t good enough, that instead it hinders opportunity, I fight back.

I’ve read comments by people who have insisted that they have more important things to think about than this controversy; people who don’t or won’t even think about what whitewashing means; who don’t want to think about race and representation but instead want to comment about why they shouldn’t or won’t go out and pick up books by or about people of color or any other group they don’t normally read about. I think the comments have hurt me more than the whitewashing.

For those who do not understand what whitewashing means to me, Susan, and others who are boycotting Bloomsbury, let me tell you. To whitewash is to erase; to erase a whole community of people who look a certain way. Whether unintentional or not, it’s cruel. When you say that boycotting is not the answer because it hurts the author and that instead I should buy the book, you are telling me that money is more important than integrity. You may not know that’s what you’re saying, but that’s what I hear. By boycotting, I’m taking my power as a consumer and giving my money to another publisher. To give my money to Bloomsbury is to tell my children that what Bloomsbury did was okay. The excuse people have given to Bloomsbury about books not selling as well when people of color are on the covers does not matter. What matters is that this damaging action was taken.

Before I receive comments saying it’s not the author’s fault, I know that. I know that authors may not have much control over their books, but I can control my response which is not to help the publisher’s bottom line. This boycott isn’t about the misrepresentation of hair color or weight but race.

Until Bloomsbury issues an apology, I will not be buying any of their products.

Other responses on the matter: Doret Eva Susan’s responses Ari Amy Renay Jodie The Book Smugglers Colleen Anastasia who posts provides the book trailer  Tasha Salon.com

19 thoughts on “Not Again, Bloomsbury”

  1. This is a really hard situation. I hate, hate, hate that Bloomsbury has done this, but at the same time, I’m not sure I think a boycott is completely the right answer. Not that it’s the wrong answer, either. I’m not sure there IS a right answer. I wish there was a way to hurt Bloomsbury without hurting the author, especially a brand new author like this, and especially as – just like you say – it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t even have the professional clout to make a stink the way Justine Larbalestier could.

    This makes me so sad. Ironically it’s not a book I would have read anyway, though I might have considered it with a girl with MIddle Eastern coloring on it just because that’s so different from the norm. I wish I knew what to do. I feel completely helpless and like I can scream to the wind all I want and nothing will happen.

    A friend of mine is a model and was telling me yesterday about the modeling industry because of my On Beauty post. She’s nearly 6 ft tall and she loses jobs because she only fits into a size 4. She considers size 8 to be “plus size.” In Europe, you can’t get modeling jobs unless you’re under a size 2. And it’s not just size. You have to have the right skin, the right hair, and all the rest. It’s horrible. We need to stop propogating this stereotype in all areas of our lives, and I don’t know how.

    sorry to go off rambling, it’s just that this situation makes me so upset and I hate Bloomsbury but don’t know what I can do that doesn’t just hurt the author. 😦

  2. I was so ignorant to the phenomenon until yesterday and I am shocked…not sure why I would be since I know these things happen. I’m so grateful for you for bringing this to my attention. I’m going to be paying more attention to books, book covers, authors, all of it in the future. Eva said in her post yesterday that reading is a political act. I had never taken my reading that seriously before but I can see that I need to. Thanks for being so honest with your own feelings and making me get my head out of the sand!

  3. Amanda: I feel so upset about this too.This book sounds like it has such a great story. You know as a reader when you find a great book, you want to give it to everyone you know. But even if the story is great I can’t do it. For a while now now I’ve been wondering how to bring more attention to people who are beautiful though don’t have the features that mainstream think of as beautiful. How do Pacific Islanders and Native Americans feel when very few books, magazines, or TV shows don’t feature them in any way?

    I don’t know how to drastically change the situation though I’m glad that there’s a dialogue going on around the blogisphere.

    Kathleen: Thanks for commenting.I’m trying to pay more attention to what I read also.

  4. Vasilly, I’m shocked. I was wondering why all the POC-related posts, but I don’t Twitter so your post is the first time I heard about it. I cannot believe Bloomsbury did it again after the Liar controversy. This hurts me, too, being a POC. I’ve a mind to boycott Bloomsbury, too, until they do something about it. THanks for telling us non-Twitterers about this.

  5. I haven’t been around much this week, and haven’t heard a lot about this yet, but to hear that Bloomsbury has, yet again had the narrow-minded, idiotic, ridiculous, moronic, short-sighted temerity to do this YET AGAIN is heartbreaking. Like the LIAR controversy, a boycott only feels like it would hurt the author and not Bloomsbury so much, but at the same time I totally understand your desire to do something. I feel the same way! I definitely don’t want to buy the book now, and hope perhaps another publisher will pick it up, particularly in another country so that I could get it there (if it has an appropriate cover, of course), to show support of the author.

    Incidentally, I read and LOVED a book by Tanita S. Davis last year, a wonderful book, with African-America teens pictured on the cover, and wasn’t put off by it one bit. White people will buy books about other races Bloomsbury, not matter the cover, get your heads out of you @$$es!

    Love ya Vasilly, thanks for writing this!

  6. You know, I haven’t commented really specifically on the issue of the cover but it genuinely baffles me. And I’m so sorry that this happens. I hope we’re successful in having our voices heard.

  7. What a wonderful post Vasilly! It baffles me too when people say that whitewashing isn’t racist. Ari’s open letter made me tear up…it’s so hard being a teenager to begin with, and then to not see people who look like you. Ugh.

    Aarti did a really relevent post yesterday too, in which she discusses how due to her reading when she was younger, all of her fantasies were about her being white: http://aartichapati.blogspot.com/2010/01/for-discussion-racism-in-fantasy-its.html

  8. I’m not a twitterer, so I don’t really know exactly where this discussion all started, but I do totally agree that book covers should not depicit the main character as being lighter/thinner/better in whatever way than actually described in the book.

    I would love to see the day when we we are all accepted for who we are, without having to try to fit some kind of “norm”!!

  9. Oh, dear. Not again. It’s so upsetting that my favorite pastime is still entrenched with racism, especially since this is a novel geared towards children and young adults. It only propagates the idea that “white is best” along with “skinny is best,” “blond is best,” and “straight is best”. How despicable.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Vasilly, and for bringing this to my attention since I don’t twitter.

  10. Claire: You are very welcome. So many things go on on Twitter that doesn’t really get told about on blogs.Luckily Bloomsbury announced today that they are ceasing publication of the book to change the cover.

    Nymeth: Thank you for supporting us through this.

    Gavin: Thank you so much. On some sites it seems like there are more people against boycotting than anything else. Glad to see you with us.

    Eva: I read Aarti’s post. How sad. I’m glad so many of us are opening and discussing our experiences. It makes the blogging community better and less superficial.

    Valerie: I definitely agree. We are all beautiful and we should celebrate our differences. There’s nothing wrong with any of us.

    Christina: You are so welcome. Thanks for reading my post.

  11. I didn’t know anything about this! See, I am out of the loop… I am glad that actions are being taken and a new cover is being released.

  12. Vasilly,
    You and I have been chatting so much lately that I didn’t realize I hadn’t commented. It’s after the fact but I didn’t realize until after the cover change that people didn’t understand I was calling for boycotting Bloomsbury’s entire line. Why readers wanted to focus on the book and the author is simple: it’s easier. Changing the cover on this book, makes it easy for readers to celebrate and not fight for what’s right. It’s easier to make excuses rather than be held accountable for our own inaction or actions. It’s easier to say let’s hug rather than discuss the issue and confront the reality.

    You are articulate and eloquent. I’m simply loud and a big-mouth and I’m going to argue I’m old and ornery. 🙂

    Thank you so much for joining me. I look forward to our partnership and growing friendship.

  13. I agree. I don’t feel this is over and I can’t buy Bloombury at this time, either. I cannot help but wonder if it was a marketing ploy or sheer racism. Or, which of those explanations is worse!

  14. For them to have made the “mistake” once is bad enough–but yet again?
    I didn’t even realize stuff like this happens!
    The media already stuffs airbrushed perfection down our throats. Everywhere we look–movies, tv, magazines, billboards.
    Sadly, it all comes down to money…

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