Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Ongoing Saga of Jim Crow Publishing

Yes, it's happened again. Yes, I'm still talking about it. And yes...I'm pissed.

Jaclyn Dolamore, author of MAGIC UNDER GLASS wrote a "brown" skinned protagonist.

Her publisher "white-washed" the cover:
Putting a white person on the cover of a book about a brown-skinned character doesn't merely imply that people of color aren't worth as much to publishers; it pretty much says it outright.

 (To see Jaclyn's view of her lead character, check out her trailer for the book here.)

So now we have yet another crop up that exposes the publishing industry's present-day Jim Crow practices. Remember Justine Larbalestier's cover just a few short months ago?

Why do you think this topic is ignored by the mainstream media? Why isn't this a hot topic on The View? Could it be because of the "crony" and "good-old-boys" club? After all, journalists and producers want book deals (and powerful friends), too. So shining a spotlight on the blatantly racist practices of the publishing houses probably wouldn't keep one in their good graces.

This upsets me because I feel the implications of each and every one of these incidents deep in my soul. Things like this should not still be happening.

Justine Larbalestier expressed it very clearly:
Every year at every publishing house, intentionally and unintentionally, there are white-washed covers. Since I’ve told publishing friends how upset I am with my Liar cover, I have been hearing anecdotes from every single house about how hard it is to push through covers with people of colour on them. Editors have told me that their sales departments say black covers don’t sell. Sales reps have told me that many of their accounts won’t take books with black covers. Booksellers have told me that they can’t give away YAs with black covers. Authors have told me that their books with black covers are frequently not shelved in the same part of the library as other YA—they’re exiled to the Urban Fiction section—and many bookshops simply don’t stock them at all.

She also said:
The notion that “black books” don’t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them. Until that happens more often we can’t know if it’s true that white people won’t buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers."

When does this end? When does the book industry's white supremacist activity end? So many people are affected by this insidious system, yet the scars go unseen, the pain ignored.

Freedom? How can people who are treated like 2nd-class human beings actually be free? Every time something like this happens, it exposes the unspoken and closeted enslavement that still exists in the United States. And the offense is compounded by the fact that, for various reasons, people allow it to continue month after month, year after year, both directly and indirectly. In silence.
"The Negro was to accept the biracial system and his subordinate status. He was to seek advancement within the confines of his segregated black world. He was to develop the friendship of influential whites and use their assistance.

By cultivating habits of hard work, thrift, and honesty, he was to demonstrate his claim to wider acceptance and better treatment. Above all, he was never to present any organized challenge to the existing order of things or engage in movements which might be regarded by whites as detrimental to their economic and political interest." - Booker T. Washington

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5 comments:

Gina in DC said...

This really is bad. That writer obviously had a reason for writing a brown skinned lead character and it's a shame her publisher would undermine her that way. I really hope this gets some media attention this time.

Monica Jackson said...

That is my fav Booker T Washington quote and one we still live by as a people, unfortunately.

The fear is if we stand up, we'll be cut down. The lure is at least a few are making it. There are a handful of black authors deemed universal.

We are progressing, slowly, but we are.

Millenia Black said...

We are progressing, slowly, but we are.

Glad to hear they're changing her cover. Slowly, but surely!

Benji Howell said...

Good post, Millenia. I agree w/u...there is no freedom when publishers are getting away with marginalizing black readers and writers. Keep fighting the good fight until it stops for good! You were the first to take a public, balls on the line stand against them and it'll take more of that to force them out of the comfortable seat of supremacy. Publishing is just reflecting the secret consciousness of society at large right? Me thinks so.

black expressions book club said...

Why does these things continue to happen :( There should be a way to put a stop to this right???