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If the protagonist of your novel is Black, who in their right mind would put a white person on the cover? Um, your publisher?
Justine Larbalestier’s new book, Liar, is out in the U.S. The Australian cover is a white background with “Liar” all over it. The book is about a pathological liar. The girl, Micah, is Black. The U.S. cover features a white female with long, straight hair obscuring part of her face.
Larbalestier has written a long post about it, notably after other people pointed out the disconnect between the cover and the character. Her post is worth visiting – read it here.
Honestly, the cover would not have kept me from reading the book or, if I had older children, selecting it for them. But a cover with a Black teenager on it would have assured I’d give the book a chance. As a mother the cover is often the main draw for me to a new book. (My kids are in picture books and early chapter books at this stage). Children’s and YA books aren’t in the mainstream press as much as adult titles are (though even adult coverage has diminished). So the cover is my map to whether I’d pick the book up for my child. And in the library (where librarians in my town do a wonderful job of putting diverse books in prominent places) and book stores, I am drawn to books that:
Feature Black characters on the cover
Have beautiful artwork
And show children of multiple ethnicities and races
Have an international theme
So the cover certainly does matter to me and mine. Hopefully the paperback version of Liar will have a better cover.