My Answer to the Challenge

A while back I issued a challenge. I’ve been working on an answer to my own challenge for a while now. I may add to it at some time, but I thought I’d post what I’ve got so far. What do you think?

My apologies to the readers of this blog for the scarcity of posts these days. I could continue to rant about model-y girl photos on covers, but I don’t want to beat a dead horse. I’ve been studying book covers from the 1990s trying to develop something worth saying about the representation of people of color over the years. Without any measurable data to back me up (yet anyway), I’ll just say that it’s looking like there was a lot more representation in the 90s than in the first decade of the 2000s. But I continue to work on this…

The Boy Who Could Fly by James Norcliffe (Egmont 2010): Having grown up in a miserable home for abandoned children, a young boy jumps at the chance to exchange places with the mysterious, flying “loblolly boy,” but once he takes on this new identity, he discovers what a harsh price he must pay.
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (Farafina 2007, Houghton 2005): Zahrah, a timid thirteen-year-old girl, undertakes a dangerous quest into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle to seek the antidote for her best friend after he is bitten by a snake, and finds knowledge, courage, and hidden powers along the way.
As You Wish by Jackson Pearce (HarperTeen 2009): When a genie arrives to grant sixteen-year-old Viola’s wish to feel she belongs, as she did before her best friend/boyfriend announced that he is gay, her delay in making wishes gives her and the mysterious Jinn time to fall in love.
The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies by Lizabeth Zindel (Viking 2008): Sixteen-year-old Maggie’s fears about making friends as an incoming senior at an exclusive New York City girls school are allayed when she is invited to join an elite secret society devoted to eavesdropping and recording the “truth” about students and faculty.

9 Responses to “My Answer to the Challenge”

  1. If you’re looking for something to investigate, a friend of mine brought this up to me a couple months ago: She’s a person of color with an ethnic-sounding name, and when she got the jacket design for her book, it was an illustration (in YA). She also noticed that on the booksellers’ shelves, authors with ethnic-sounding names typically got illustrated covers in YA, while white-sounding authors got the photograph covers. I believe she mentioned that she studied this a bit while pursuing her MFA, but I can’t be sure. Thoughts?

  2. Jacket Whys Says:

    I wonder what the reason for that would be? Any ideas? I’ll definitely watch out for that.
    In the 1990s – at least in the beginning of the 90s, which is what I’ve been looking at – photos were seldom, if ever, used for YA book covers. I figure a lot of illustrators lost their place in the market during the past 20 years or so.

  3. No idea. I don’t even know if her theory has merit, but just thought I’d throw it out there. I certainly hope it doesn’t pan out; that would be pretty pathetic!

  4. That’s really cool! I like the continuation of the butterfly wing on the right, with the transformation into the bird wing on the left. It’s odd, but it works.

    As far as 90′s covers, maybe you can compare the covers of books that were out in the 90s with the redisgned covers of the same books that were released in the 2000s. That may give something more of a direct correlation. I just don’t know how many examples there are of this for representation of people of color.

  5. Well done! I love the collage. Keep going on the research–that’s going to be a very important post.

  6. As an author of color who is smack in the middle of talking with her publisher about the cover for my novel. I find your blog extremely valuable. I am leaning strongly toward not having a person on my cover but I like hearing other views Thank you for all your research and hard work on this subject.

  7. I love the collage! It took me a second to realize that the small head was on a different cover. The continuation of the butterfly wing is amazing — it looks like it could be the same butterfly.

  8. Somehow I missed this – nicely done!

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