Archive for the people of color Category

The Faces of ’10

Posted in book covers, people of color, stock photos, trends on October 4, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Great faces below. It’s fun to see these all together…
This round (there’s more to come- next, the illustrated covers) is the photographed faces of 2010 books that have “African American” as an LOC subject (with 1 exception: Between Sisters takes place in Ghana). They are: Teenie by Christopher Grant (Knopf), Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins (Scholastic), Between Sisters by Adwoa Badoe (Groundwood), Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman (Delacorte), Maxine Banks is Getting Married by Lori Aurelia Williams, (Roaring Brook), Good Fortune by Noni Carter (Simon & Schuster), A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes (Zondervan), Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson (Simon & Schuster), Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado (G.P. Putnam’s), Can’t Hold Me Down by Lyah B. LeFlore (Simon Pulse), We Could Be Brothers by Derrick Barnes (Scholastic), Enjoying True Peace by Stephanie Perry Moore (Moody), Split Ends by Jacquelin Thomas (Simon & Schuster), Caught Up in the Drama and Drama Queens by ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Simon & Schuster).
For the most part, books this year that have African American as one of their subjects, have people of color on their jackets. I haven’t really found any whitewashing… Furthermore, only one (I think) of the authors of the books below is white (Something Like Hope). How does this compare to past years? Hard to say. The CCBC has numbers that you can look at – but they don’t break out YA, and I find that there are a lot more picture books with non-white faces on them (probably there are a lot more picture books in general).

So what do you think?

Teenie: High school freshman Martine, longing to escape Brooklyn and her strict parents, is trying to get into a study-abroad program but when her long-time crush begins to pay attention to her and her best friend starts an on-line relationship, Teenie’s mind is on anything but her grades. Age 12+.
Sell-Out: NaTasha loves her life of affluence in Park Adams, but her grandmother fears she has lost touch with her roots and whisks her off to Harlem, where NaTasha meets rough, street-wise girls at a crisis center and finds the courage to hold her own against them. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4.
Between Sisters: Sixteen-year-old Gloria, who lives in poverty in Accra, dreams of becoming a dressmaker but has difficulty with school, and when a distant relative offers to pay for dressmaking school in exchange for Gloria looking after her son in Kumasi, Gloria accepts the offer and finds that life in Kumasi is full of temptations and distractions which she must struggle to overcome. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2.
Something Like Hope: Shavonne, a fierce, desperate seventeen year-old in juvenile lockup, wants to turn her life around before her eighteenth birthday, but corrupt guards, out-of-control girls, and shadows from her past make her task seem impossible. Age 14+.
Maxine Banks: When seventeen-year-old Maxine’s best friend gets married, Maxine suddenly decides that she and her boyfriend Brian should too, but things do not turn out the way she expected, and both she and Brian realize that they are not as grown up as they thought. Age 14+. Reviews 1.
Good Fortune: Brutally kidnapped from her African village and shipped to America, a young girl struggles to come to terms with her new life as a slave, gradually rising from working in the fields to the master’s house, secretly learning to read and write, until, risking everything, she escapes to seek freedom in the North. Age 12+. Reviews 1, 2. The author talks about the book.
A Girl Named Mister: A pregnant teenager finds support and forgiveness from God through a book of poetry presented from the Virgin Mary’s perspective. Age . Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Book trailer.
Sweet, Hereafter: Sweet leaves her family and goes to live in a cabin in the woods with the quiet but understanding Curtis, to whom she feels intensely connected, just as he is called back to serve again in Iraq. Age 12+. Reviews 1.
Secret Saturdays: Twelve-year-old boys living in a rough part of New York confront questions about what it means to be a friend, a father, and a man. Age 10+. Reviews 1, 2.
Can’t Hold Me Down:  Blue, having lost his successful entertainment production company after one catastrophic night, finds his best friend, who was also his business partner, and his girlfriend turning their backs on him and decides he will fight to get it all back. Age 14+.
We Could Be Brothers: Two eighth-graders from very different backgrounds, Robeson “Crease” Battlefield and Pacino Clapton, discover in afterschool detention that they have a great deal in common. Age 10+. Reviews 12. Book trailer.
Enjoying True Peace: When her father’s decision to move the whole family sends everyone in an uproar, triplet Yasmin continues to depend on God to help her remain calm and find peace in the midst of this new storm. Age 12+
Split Ends: Preferring homelessness to living with her irresponsible mother, teenaged Kylie runs away, takes a job at a hair salon, and learns to trust God.
Caught Up in the Drama: When Camille starts to appear in rap music videos, her close relationship with her friends in the Good Girlz is threatened by her quest for stardom. Age 13+.
Drama Queens: As The Good Girlz anticipate attending Prairie View A&M University in the fall, Alexis’s summer internship is threatened by bad decisions, Jasmine worries her final exam scores will not win her a scholarship, and Angel announces she is moving to Dallas with a new boyfriend. Age 13+.

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The Garden of Broken Book Covers

Posted in book covers, older book covers, people of color, trends on August 10, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Constantly on the lookout for how people of color have been represented on book covers over the years, and being in the midst of a weeding (for non-librarians, that means getting rid of old books that nobody takes out anymore) project, I came across this one – Garden of Broken Glass by Emily Cheney Neville (Delacorte 1975). Here is a book which does not include “African American” as a subject (most books that include African American characters seem to). Nothing on the jacket mentions African American characters. Yet here they are in this cover illustration by Jerry Pinkney.

Remember – this is the 70s. It’s my impression that, in that decade, we were far more advanced in representing people of color on books. Even if – as in this one – the subject matter did not focus on color as subject matter (message: regular people come in all colors). In the glitzy 21st century, are we taking giant steps backward?
I fear we are.
Anita Silvey, in Children’s Books and Their Creators (Houghton Mifflin 1995) said this of the book:

Garden of Broken Glass uses shifting viewpoints to examine a group of lower-class multicultureal teenagers. Some readers may find Neville’s use of dialect in the novel to be inauthentic, but it remains a thought-provoking book.

On the positive side, in this century we (or shall I say – publishers) may have gained sensitivity in the way those characters are represented in the text itself?

Garden of Broken Glass: Unable to work out a satisfactory relationship with his brother and sister and cope with their alcoholic mother, a young boy finds solace with neighborhood friends and in his relationship with a stray dog. (What are the Library of Congress subject headings?: Family problems. That’s it. Just family problems.)

Random Strangers

Posted in book covers, people of color, stock photos on August 1, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Just a quickie here – I was catching up on my blog reading and came across this posting called “Beautiful Portraits of Random Strangers“. The very first thing I thought:  why aren’t book covers using these faces? (Or faces like them…) REAL people! Aren’t they gorgeous?

Zia Over Decades

Posted in book covers, illustration, paperback changes, people of color on July 13, 2010 by Jacket Whys

In my research, I came across this Scott O’Dell title, Zia (Houghton Mifflin 1976).
Cover #1 was the original cover, published in 1976. Cover #2 came out around 1981, cover #3, around 1995, and the 4th cover is upcoming – scheduled for release in January of next year.

Mulling this over… does it tell us anything about the evolution of cover design? The story is based on the true story of Juana Maria – the last surviving member of her tribe, who lived on San Nicolas Island, off the coast of southern California. One might expect her, then, to look like the Natives of that area. Which she does, on the 1976 cover.*
Six years later she looks much more European. The 1995 cover is pretty, but less focused on the character. It’s interesting that the photograph on the upcoming release looks very much like the illustration (by Ted Lewin) on the original edition. She’s lighter skinned, but it’s an amazing match in terms of her features.
An interesting group…

*I do not hold myself up as any kind of authority on any culture, so please take my opinion with a shovelful of salt… or so.

Whitewashing Article

Posted in book covers, controversy, people of color, stock photos, symbols, trends on June 12, 2010 by Jacket Whys

Tanita Davis, author of Mare’s War has a great article, “Reflected Faces“, up on Hunger Mountain: the VCFA Journal of the Arts. In it she says:

It still seems as if young people with brown skin are acceptable to ignore, at least in the marketing departments where the Powers That Be have determined that Brown doesn’t equal Buy… This may seem unimportant—at least young adults of color are included in contemporary YA literature. They’re IN the books, and so if the nonwhite characters don’t make it to the cover as often, at least there are nonwhite characters, right? Shouldn’t that be sufficient when Caucasians comprise two thirds of the American population?

I’m working on a post comparing POC coverage ten or twenty years ago, with today. It’s lots of background work, so stay tuned – it’ll be up sometime!

Oh, and here’s the other article in a section they’re calling “Flipside“, “Teens Do Judge a Book by the Cover” by Mitali Perkins (in the same issue of the same journal). She says:

Get most faces OFF the covers of young adult novels.

Hear, hear! (and see my next post)

New Press, Different Design

Posted in book covers, people of color, stock photos, symbols on April 16, 2010 by Jacket Whys

I just found the great cover below. This is a refreshingly different slant on the “face cover.”  There’s a lot of emotion conveyed with the pose and cropping choices. Barbed wire to let us know that there’s trouble, and the pinkish-tinted dove to hint at peaceful resolution.  Abe in Arms by Pegi Deitz Shea will be published by PM Press in June. I hadn’t heard of this publisher, and still don’t know much after reading their “About” page, but clearly they are paying attention to design. Will teens pick this up without a well-dressed teen model on the cover?

Abe in Arms: Age 12+. Reviews: none yet.

POC on Book Covers

Posted in controversy, people of color on January 21, 2010 by Jacket Whys

I am really struggling with the last four in my 10 Best Book Covers of 2009 list. Can you tell?
Meantime I’m off reading other peoples cover posts. And the plot thickens… Bookshelves of doom has found another one.
AND Bloomsbury has temporarily stopped selling Magic Under Glass while they fix it up with a new cover.
Now that we are all sensitized to this, I wonder what else will crop up.

Oh, no. Not again!

Posted in book covers, controversy, people of color on January 17, 2010 by Jacket Whys

So I guess there’s another Bloomsbury “coverfail” or “racefail” or whatever kind of fail you want to call it.

If you, like me a few minutes ago, haven’t caught wind of Chapter 2 get introduced here:
Really Bloomsbury? I’m Done. The Publishing World Needs to Take Note at Reading in Color.

Unlike some of the people who have blogged about the fail, I do not like this cover – it’s a run-of-the-mill, assembly line cover just like many, many other covers. It seems some marketing departments figure they’ve discovered the formula for selling lots of books. Boy, I like to think it’s not true.
Some have asked “where is the outrage” on this issue. I thought there was plenty of outrage with the first blog outing of a “racefail” cover. I guess not enough. I’m hoping this second run does the trick.

I, for one, will be looking to see/highlight people of color on more book covers. And real people, not just the beautiful ones.

UPDATE: The author responds. I have a great deal of sympathy for all of the authors who put their heart and soul into creating something – and then have no say in the packaging. It doesn’t seem right to make this author pay for a marketing mistake.

Am I missing something?

Posted in book covers, people of color on October 22, 2009 by Jacket Whys

My paperback copy of Jerry Spinelli‘s Smiles to Go (Joanna Cotler 2008) came today.  See below – hardcover’s on the left, paperback on the right:

Spinelli - Smiles to GoSpinelli - Smiles to Go pbk

So… why? It’s not that I think the hardcover is spectacular or anything. I’m just not thinking this plain blue cover is going to grab anyone, let alone a teen. They’re both HarperCollins, so I don’t think it’s a matter of rights. I can’t even imagine the discussion behind this switch…

Smiles to Go: Will Tuppence’s life has always been ruled by science and common sense but in ninth grade, shaken up by the discovery that protons decay, he begins to see the entire world differently and gains new perspective on his relationships with his little sister and two closest friends. Ages 10+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4.

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