1/17/10

The cover of Magic Under Glass


BREAKING NEWS, added 1/21/10: From the Bloomsbury Kids website: “Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of *Magic Under Glass*. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly.”

Added 2/23/10 --here's the new cover, as shown on Amazon


A discussion is currently taking place about the cover of Magic Under Glass, by Jaclyn Dolamore (Bloomsbury, 2010), castigating the publishers for showing a girl on the cover who does not accurately represent the ethnicity of the character in the book--in short, the cover shows a character of color as white. (If you are wondering why this matters, please read this letter to Bloomsbury from Ari at Reading in Color).

I thought it might be a useful contribution to the discussion to share exactly how Nimira is described, because most of the people talking about it haven't read the book. All the page numbers refer to the ARC. I tried to find every example, but may have missed some.

"My hair tumbled down my back, glossy black and shining in the low light." (page 3)

"I knew how the men of Lorinar thought, what they wanted. To him, I was dark and foreign and crude." (page 4)

"...pink does not do with skin like yours." (pp 32-33)

"Miss Rashten thinks pink doesn't suit my complexion," I warned him.
"Nonsense," he said. "There is no color more feminine than pink; no woman it does not suit, and you especially, with your golden glow." (page 64)

"[The dress] dipped low in back and front...exposing what seemed like far too much of my brown skin." (page 96)

In my mind, as I read the book, I pictured Nimira as someone from Turkey (based mainly on descriptions of things other than Nimira). When I finished reading, and was writing my review, I stared at the cover for quite some time.

The girl on the cover was not as dark as I pictured Nimira, especially with regard to her hair. Her hair is brown on the cover, not black. Her skin was paler than I thought it should be too, although it does, mainly because of the lighting, have a "golden glow," which was the phrase that suck in my mind, because when I read "golden glow" I stopped reading and wondered what crayon I would use for that.

I remember thinking how glad I was that at least they had not made Nimira into an overly romanticised example of the "exotic other" (which was something that Dolamore managed to avoid in her book, but which I was a bit nervous about).

I wish I had mentioned this in my comments about the book. I do not think this is as catastrophic a race fail as the cover of Liar, but I am sorry that Bloomsbury didn't take advantage of the opportunity provided by the story to show a beautiful girl who actually is "dark." And I'm sorry I failed to raise the issue in my review, and with my silence indicated acceptance of this white-washing.

To see how the author herself vizualized Nimira, here's the book trailer.

13 comments:

  1. Charlotte, I'm glad you came back to the issue.

    Honestly, the cover alone would not have caught my attention. However, anything that breaks from status quo is interesting and given my lament about how POC are so limited and reduced to particular genres, you'd like to think the folks at Bloomsbury would be smarter. Even if they don't think POC matters for social/political reasons, you'd think they would consider how they could broaden their audience by accurately representing the characters.

    Thanks.

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  2. Before I comment about this new issue on my blog. I am going to read Magic Under Glass.

    Though quotes you picked prove that the cover choice is wrong.

    Bloomsbury just doesn't get it. Its not the fact they refuse to use Brown faces on covers. It the unneeded White face lie.

    There is no law that says there must be a face on a cover. If you think Brown don't sell fine do something else.

    Charlotte, thanks for taking the time to share these examples.

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  3. Thanks for the examples Charlotte. I haven't read the book yet, so I'm kind of reserving judgement so far on this one, but it's nice to see what people are getting at.

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  4. Doret - Its not the fact they refuse to use Brown faces on covers. It the unneeded White face lie. Oh, now that is a great way of putting it.

    I have an (unread) ARC of this somewhere, but couldn't find it yesterday when I first saw Ari's post about the cover, so thanks for the quotes and perspective, Charlotte.

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  5. Without having read the book, I was just concerned about her corset being too tight. It's good (essential) to have the textual references at hand when discussing the cover choice. And I also like the way Doret put it.

    I took a peek at the other cover, too (the one with the illustration of two people and a piano under a bell jar): is the girl supposed to be Nimira?

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  6. I linked to this in my original post. Thank you for revisintg this issue and for compiling a list of quotes where Nimira's dark-skin is mentioned, it's quite helpful.

    I appreciate all that you do in promoting books about poc in fantasy and sci fi. I need to read more fantasy and sci fi as well so this is a great resource!

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  7. I linked to this in my original post. Thank you for revisintg this issue and for compiling a list of quotes where Nimira's dark-skin is mentioned, it's quite helpful.

    I appreciate all that you do in promoting books about poc in fantasy and sci fi. I need to read more fantasy and sci fi as well so this is a great resource!

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  8. Lovely, balanced post - I appreciated the quotes and the extra treat of the author's book trailer at the end. I knew nothing about the book and just assumed this was another teen historical romance featuring someone white. There's definitely a huge problem in Publishing Land...

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  9. Your post has been included in a Linkspam roundup

    Linkspam_mod

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  10. nice post. thanks.

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  11. Interestingly, either of the covers could represent a middle easterner, or most any nationality other than Middle Africani. A second thing to consider would be the natural (even for Africanis) tendancy of skin to lighten without regular contct in the sun. (as would be the case for a night performer)

    It speaks volumes about racial relations in America (and whos really to blame) that any time we dont have Queen Bathsheba on the cover of a book, "its an outrage", and "racially discriminating". Maybe if the Black Americans whining about racism actually started living by what they claim to believe, they wouldnt be so universally dismissed, even by other Africanis.

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  12. Hi Tank,

    Although I agree that you could probably find someone from the Middle East who looked like the girl on the cover, if you tried hard enough, she still doesn't look like the girl described in the book--she was, in fact, whitewashed. I don't think that anyone said she had to look African.

    Also, I'd like to point out that readers who speak out against whitewashing are not all African Americans. This is just one of the many many things in your second paragraph that I find offensive--there's also the over-generalization of "any time we..." And how can you use the words "whining about rascism?" Isn't speaking out, in a powerful and committed way, a way of effecting change? And I have no clue what you mean about "living by what they claim to believe."

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  13. Doret - Its not the fact they refuse to use Brown faces on covers. It the unneeded White face lie. Oh, now that is a great way of putting it....

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