Too Many White Girls
With the discussion about Liar, I decided to do a very unscientific, informal roundup of who’s on the 2009 crop of book covers. I looked at about 775 children’s and YA book covers for books that have been released or will be released this year. 80% of them had people on them. A full 25% of all book covers had white girls pictured on them, and 10% had white boys. Only 2% of the titles I looked at had African American boys or girls pictured on the covers – a sad state of affairs. I can understand the outcry over the Liar cover.
With the caveat that I cannot possibly have seen everything that’s out there, and that for the most part, I have not included series books – here’s some of what I found:
There are lots of series specifically targeting African American teens, like Kimani Tru, and Bluford High, and they all have black teens on their covers. And most titles with 3 or more people on them are likely to include an African American in the group. But the dearth of black people on the year’s mainstream book covers is pretty appalling.
Side notes: I would have included Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, but much like Liar, you really can’t say that the subject is African American. Having read the book, it is in keeping with the story – an important aspect is that the main character passes for white.
Also, there were a good number of new books that included “African American” in the LOC marc record, which fell into the no people on the cover category – Unsigned Hype by Mattison Booker, Morning in a Different Place by Mary McGuigan, Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers, If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser – to name a few.
Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon (Aladdin): In 1968 Chicago, fourteen-year-old Sam Childs is caught in a conflict between his father’s nonviolent approach to seeking civil rights for African Americans and his older brother, who has joined the Black Panther Party.
Burn My Heart by Beverley Naidoo (Amistad): While the Mau Mau rebellion threatens the British settlers living in Kenya during the 1950s, Mathew and Mugo maintain their friendship, despite their different races, but during these tense times, a single act of betrayal could alter everything.
Messed Up by Janet Nichols Lynch (Holiday House): Fifteen-year-old RD is repeating the eighth grade, planning to have an easy year, but after his grandmother walks out her boyfriend is no longer able to care for him, which leaves RD to fend for himself while avoiding being caught. (LOC Subject: “Hispanic Americans”)
Black Angels by Linda Beatrice Brown (G. P. Putnam’s): Three Southern children, two black and one white, escape from their homes during the horrors of the Civil War and, after meeting in the woods, gradually come to rely on each other as they make their way slowly north, enduring hunger, fear, sickness, and constant danger, before arriving in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
City Boy by Jan Michael (Clarion): In the southern African country of Malawi, after the AIDS-related deaths of both of his parents, a boy leaves his affluent life in the city to live in a rural village, sharing a one-roomed hut with his aunt, his cousins, and other orphans.
Blue Mountain Trouble by Martin Mordecai (Arthur A. Levine): After being saved from a disastrous landslide by an extraordinary goat that blocks their usual way to school, twins Pollyread and Jackson, living with their parents high in the mountains of Jamaica, find the strange goat reappearing at crucial intervals as their day-to-day life is changed by series of mysterious events involving the return of a local troublemaker and secrets from their family’s past.
Cashay by Margaret McMullan (Houghton Mifflin): When her world is turned upside down by her sister’s death, a mentor is assigned to fourteen-year-old Cashay to help her through her anger and grief. (LOC Subject: “Racially Mixed People”)
Girl Stays in the Picture by Melissa De La Cruz (Simon & Schuster): On a movie set in Saint Tropez, France, several teenaged members of the Hollywood elite come together in an explosion of scenes shot and reshot, friendships formed and cast aside, and romances begun and destroyed, all duly reported by paparazzi.
Dog Whisperer: The Rescue by Nicholas Edwards (Square Fish): Eleven-year-old Emily’s nightmares of drowning lead her to an injured dog near her family’s coastal Maine home, and as she nurses him back to health, she becomes aware that they have a strange psychic connection. (LOC Subject: “Racially Mixed People”)
Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis (Knopf): Teens Octavia and Tali learn about strength, independence, and courage when they are forced to take a car trip with their grandmother, who tells about growing up Black in 1940s Alabama and serving in Europe during World War II as a member of the Women’s Army Corps.
Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes (G. P. Putnam’s): Spunky third-grader Dyamonde Daniel misses her old neighborhood, but when she befriends a boy named Free, another new student at school, she finally starts to feel at home.
Hollywood & Maine by Alison Whittenberg (Delacorte): In 1976 Pennsylvania, middle-schooler Charmaine Upshaw contemplates a career as a model or actress while coping with boyfriend problems and the return of her uncle, a fugitive who cost her family $1,000 in bail money a year earlier.