Tag Archives: Liar

Lying on the Cover

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

There’s been a great firestorm of controversy over Justine Larbalestier’s cover for her recently released novel, Liar. Ms. Larbalestier is the Australian-born author of How to Ditch Your Fairy and other fantasy/sci-fi titles. She has a wide fan base. She is married to Scott Westerfeld, best-selling author of the Uglies series. Together, they are a veritable, YA fantasy/sci-fi powerhouse.

The frukkus around Liar is because, in the book, the character describes herself as “black with nappy hair” which she wears short and natural. The cover image is of a white girl with long, straight hair.

Some have argued that the model could be of mixed race, or just a light-skinned black woman. The fact of the matter is that regardless of what she could be, within a racist context, most people looking at that cover would assume the model was white. Besides which, she clearly does not have short, nappy hair.

On her blog, Larbalestier has a picture of WNBA star, Alana Beard, who she thinks is more like what her character should look like. According to a report on Mediabistro’s Galleycat blog, Larbalestier was initially thrilled with her cover. They state that, back in April, she put this up on her blog:

“This cover was so well received by sales and marketing at Bloomsbury that for the first time in my career a cover for one of my books became the image used for the front of the catalogue . . . Apparently all the big booksellers went crazy for it. My agent says it was a huge hit in Bologna. And at TLA many librarians and teenagers told me they adore this cover.”

If this is true (I haven’t gone through her backposts), as an author I can relate to the excitement she must’ve felt at all the hoopla surrounding her book (okay, not really relate, because I haven’t ever experienced that, but it must’ve been awesome). But as an author of color, I’m saddened that the first thing to occur to her wasn’t how inaccurately her main character was depicted and what the implications of this could be. Continue reading

Ain’t That a Shame

By Guest Contributor Justine Larbalestier, originally published at justinelarbalestier.com

liar USIn the last few weeks as people have started reading the US ARC of Liar they have also started asking why there is such a mismatch between how Micah describes herself and the cover image. Micah is black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short. As you can see that description does not match the US cover.

Many people have been asking me how I feel about the US cover, why I allowed such a cover to appear on a book of mine, and why I haven’t been speaking out about it.

Authors do not get final say on covers. Often they get no say at all.

lair AUSAs it happens I was consulted by Bloomsbury and let them know that I wanted a cover like the Australian cover, which I think is very true to the book.* I was lucky that my Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, agreed with my vision and that the wonderful Bruno Herfst came up with such a perfect cover image.

I never wanted a girl’s face on the cover. Micah’s identity is unstable. She spends the book telling different version of herself. I wanted readers to be free to imagine her as they wanted. I have always imagined her looking quite a bit like Alana Beard,** which is why I was a bit offended by the reviewer, who in an otherwise lovely review, described Micah as ugly. She’s not!***

The US Liar cover went through many different versions. An early one, which I loved, had the word Liar written in human hair. Sales & Marketing did not think it would sell. Bloomsbury has had a lot of success with photos of girls on their covers and that’s what they wanted. Although not all of the early girl face covers were white, none showed girls who looked remotely like Micah.

I strongly objected to all of them. I lost.

I haven’t been speaking out publicly because to be the first person to do so would have been unprofessional. I have privately been campaigning for a different cover for the paperback. The response to the cover by those who haven’t read Liar has been overwhelmingly positive and I would have looked churlish if I started bagging it at every opportunity. I hoped that once people read Liar they would be as upset as I am with the cover. It would not have helped get the paperback changed if I was seen to be orchestrating that response. But now that this controversy has arisen I am much more optimistic about getting the cover changed. I am also starting to rethink what I want that cover to look like. I did want Bloomsbury to use the Australian cover, but I’m increasingly thinking that it’s important to have someone who looks like Micah on the front. Continue reading