I’m new to the Old Firehouse staff, so to everyone reading, HELLO!! I haven’t blogged before, but I feel its past time to start, especially since there is something that is seriously bothering me.
I recently read The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. It’ll be coming out in September, and it was a fantastic read. It follows a young woman who is being married off for the sake of two kingdoms to form a military alliance against a forming threat. She also is the bearer of something called the Godstone, which shows that she will do something in service of their God.
The story was fantastic; I loved the evolution of Elisa and of her world view. She became a much stronger character as the story went on, and her strength was needed badly in order to save herself and the countries from the approaching army.
Nothing inside of the covers bothered me; it was the cover itself that infuriated me. The cover features a fit white girl, which in itself wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that not a single character in the book fits that distinction, least of all the main character Elisa.
Rae Carson based her fictional culture off Spanish/Mexican cultures (as far as I can tell), and most of her characters are darker skinned because that fits her culture. The only light skinned people are in the attacking magical army. Another problem with the cover is that Elisa starts off the book rather overweight. She had lived a sheltered life, and she sought comfort in food, as a result, she was fat. This is a less serious issue I had with the cover, because as the story went on, Elisa lost weight as a result of a rather rushed, and forced, trip across a desert and through mountains.
This cover issue is not new. Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar, had the same issue with the American version of her book. Her main character was black, and yet the cover originally designed for it featured a white girl. Understandably there was quite a lot of outrage, from the author and from her fans, and under all of this heat, the publishers did the right thing and redesigned the cover to feature a black girl. (Here's the full story here: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/ and here: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/08/06/the-new-cover/)
Publishers defend this process in a rather twisted way. They say that since most books with people of different ethnicity on their covers are typically about overcoming racial prejudices, it prevents books in other genres with people who aren't white on their covers from selling, since most people will assume the book is about overcoming stereotypes, which means that only books about that issue will have those covers. Talk about a catch-22.
Publishers have the power to change this, and they should, like Larbalestier’s publishers did, so that the book industry can overcome the catch-22 it created and set an example for other entertainment industries to do the same.