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