cover it up

July 24, 2009

Australian author Justine Larbalestier tackles the controversy surrounding the cover of her latest teen novel, “Liar.” the problem:  the book’s narrator is black, yet the face staring out at the potential reader from the cover appears to be white.  Larbalestier waited to voice her dissenting opinion on Bloomsbury’s choice of cover, but can no longer stand by the publisher’s decision since it impacts the reader on many levels:

Liar is a book about a compulsive (possibly pathological) liar who is determined to stop lying but finds it much harder than she supposed. I worked very hard to make sure that the fundamentals of who Micah is were believable: that she’s a girl, that she’s a teenager, that she’s black, that she’s USian. One of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that it’s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesn’t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true. At which point the entire book, and all my hard work, crumbles.

also mentioned by Lerbalestier is the alleged practice of publishers removing all traces of race and/or cultural identity from covers for the purpose of selling more books.  ‘ugh’ seems completely inadequate.

(via Bookshelves of Doom)

posting by marin

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8 Responses to “cover it up”

  1. david Says:

    Maybe not related, but I’m always amused (and sometimes frustrated) with the movie tie-in paperback covers. Poor Frida Kahlo and John (A Beautiful Mind) Nash wound up with Salma Hayek and Russell Crowe on the covers of their own biographies!!

  2. myounker Says:

    related for sure

  3. Kathy S Says:

    It always bugs me when the cover character doesn’t match the description in the book-racial characteristics among them. I recently read a book w/ a hot babe on the cover, but in the book itself she was described as plain, w/ big shoulders and a boyish figure. Puhleaze!

  4. david Says:

    Jo Dereske tells the story about the disconnect between the jacket illustrator and the author. In many instances, the illustrator has never seen the manuscript and has only the barest idea what the book is about. Case in point: her book “Miss Zukas and the Stroke of Death” features a cat atop a grandfather clock on the cover. Problem was A. there was no cat in the story and B. the “stroke” referred to kayaking.

  5. myounker Says:

    it is truly annoying to have the cover not match the character and content of the book for sure. but what’s truly insidious about the “liar” example is the possibility that publishers and marketing are whitewashing, something i’ve suspected for quite some time in teen lit.

  6. Kathleen Says:

    I agree, Marin…and the publishers are beautifying, too. One of the great parts of Princess Ben is that she’s not all that attractive…except on the cover.


  7. […] changing the cover of Justine Larbalestier’s “Liar” which generated much prepub controversy. We regret that our original creative direction for Liar—which was intended to symbolically […]


  8. […] girl when the story was about a multiracial girl.  Charges of “whitewashing” ensued (Cover it up).  They pulled the book out of production and put new cover art on it to reflect the young woman […]


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