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text 2019-09-11 13:30
Whitewashing the cover, denying that Black Lives Matter
Lady in the Lake - Laura Lippman

Shame on William Morrow and their jacket designer.


Lippman's story opens with the words of a very pretty young working-class African-American woman and mother of two, Cleo Sherman, addressing Madeline Schwartz. She's saying that no one except her mother missed her when she disappeared, "no one cared." She's telling us that Black Lives Matter and no one was going to look for her until Schwartz, a very pretty still youngish middle-class white woman and mother of one, made the disappearance into a big deal. Cleo's a realist who's endured racism her entire life.


So the cover designer took that symbolic second place in which Cleo lives and made it literal: the pretty white woman in front, clear enough, and the probably pretty woman of perhaps some color, perhaps just in shadow or a muted reflection, but sufficiently disguised that no potential white reader of Lippman need be put off.


It's possible that no one ever explicitly said "if you put a Black face on the cover, make it hard to tell." Publishers bemoan the lack of diversity on the grounds of giving the book-buying public what it wants, to which end any broad-appeal book jackets keep lead characters of color off the cover, or hide them in shadows, or use white or passes-for-white models. Only the books specifically marketed to a Black audience are overt. It's exactly the same bullshit cycle that segregates books marketed to everyone as gender neutral or overtly masculine, while slapping pink and ball gowns on anything that isn't expected to have cross-over appeal. Legally enforced segregation may be dead, but more kids now attend racially segregated schools than before integration, now imposed by school districting.


White readers have to keep demanding more diverse voices and more diverse characters and more diverse covers, because publishers will only change if they are shamed into it. All the minority voices raised in protest won't sway them, sad to say. It's just so easy to carry on passively in systems of institutional oppression and ignore the problem.


Lippman's novel addresses racism head on. Shame on William Morrow for undercutting her. I am taking a knee, at, I acknowledge, no cost at all to myself. Black Lives Matter. Keep saying it until the US acts like it's true.


Reading progress update: I've read 121 out of 352 pages.


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review 2017-06-03 17:00
Something Wonky This Way Comes - Kate DiCamillo,Chris Van DusenĀ 
Something Wonky This Way Comes - Kate DiCamillo,Chris Van Dusen



How did I not notice before that Can Dusen paints everyone with the same skin color, same highlights and shadows? Everyone, including Mercy Watson, the pig. Different hair, facial features, head shapes, clothes, but the exact same skin (old people are all highlights and shadows for the wrinkles, but the same colors). And unlike The Simpsons, it's not one color for all the White people, but different colors for people of color. It's an interesting choice.


I didn't notice before because I just assumed that the unnatural peachy-pink meant White, because that's how we roll: default = White. No one is really that color, but society has agreed to pretend, just to make it easier.


I've been thinking about this for hours now. I still don't know how I feel about it. Is it good to ignore actual melanin across the board to avoid dividing people into White or Other? Would I be comfortable with it if he'd chosen a default that wasn't already understood to be White? If everyone was green or grey, some color which doesn't have racial coding, the deliberate neutrality would have been obvious. As it is, Mercy seems to live in an idealized mid-century sundown town. I like the setting in general, with the sidewalks and big-time cars, I enjoy the same Imagineared quality in the art of William Joyce and Mark Teague. But now I can't stop thinking how middle-class suburban White it is, and getting creeped out.


Race isn't real, but racism is so horrifyingly visible right now, that a town of pink people isn't neutral, it's threatening.


Guess I finally figured out what I feel. I am not in the pink.


Library copy.

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url 2015-11-19 22:34
The Guardian: Rick Riordan cheers end of book covers that 'whitewash' his black hero

“There is a very strong sense that black characters have been – and continue to be – left off book covers. The problem is widespread,” [Alexandra Strick, manager and co-founder of Inclusive Minds] said. “There have been many high-profile cases of characters actually changing colour completely, so described in the story as black but then appearing Caucasian on the cover. However, very often it’s more subtle than that, with the cover of a book about a non-white character often avoiding featuring a human face at all, or with the character featured in silhouette or even with their face turned away. Sometimes it’s a case of publishers asking that a character is ‘less dark’ almost as though mixed race is acceptable but somehow black skin isn’t.”


Click the title link for the full story.

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photo 2014-11-26 19:59

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review 2014-11-03 16:01
Unstoppable Octobia May - Sharon Flake
Unstoppable Octobia May - Sharon Flake

Natasha read it and loved it and passed it on to me. And I'm glad she did. It took me a little while to get used to Octobia's voice: her sentences are often short, and given her fantastic imagination it can sometimes be a challenge to figure out what she's saying. But those are smallish quibbles about a fantastic book. Octobia is living in her aunt's boarding house where she is allowed rather more freedom than her own parents are willing to give her after a catastrophic heart problem. She is immersed in Nancy Drew and the aftermath of WWII, and caught up in the struggles for rights for colored people and women. On top of that, she's trying to solve the mystery of the man upstairs who doesn't sleep at night and may be a vampire.


The entire cast is struggling against stereotypes and discrimination of various kinds, and most are also dealing with the traumas suffered during the war. There is a lot going on here, but the reader doesn't have to take it all on board: the book works well as a conventional sort of intrepid child story, in which villains are unmasked.


Highly recommended to both the middle school audience and to older readers who will enjoy the realistic portrayal of the 50s.


Library copy.

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