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Inside Practically Paradise

Controversial Covers

This January while many bloggers were focusing on the ALA Youth Media awards, there arose another issue in the biblioblogosphere: covers with characters that don’t accurately portray the author’s description inside, particularly of POC (persons of color). For those of you who thought we’d dealt with the issue after the cover of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar and The Mysterious Benedict Society, voila! The cover of Magic Under Glass was spotlighted.

You can read articles about the controversy at Salon "Publisher whitens another heroine of color" or at Jezebel "Magic Under Glass: The White-Washing Of Young Adult Fiction Continues." Was it the blog at Black-Eyed Susan’s on "Celebrating MLK with a Protest" that brought this controversy such attention? 
What’s the big deal with the cover anyway? Questions like this buzzed through the blogs. Would you protest a cover by hurting the author and not buying the book? Wouldn’t this reinforce the theory that people won’t buy books with main characters of color? How would you respond? Would you boycott an entire publisher’s line? Read some of the comments for varying opinions. Would you contact the publisher?  Will it do any good to contact the publisher when this keeps happening?

So how did author Jaclyn Dolamore respond to the controversy? Check out her blog "Wit, Words, and Joie de Vivre" for her viewpoint.  Here is the official book trailer created by Dade W. Bell. Note the female character more accurately reflects the description by Dolamore. 

How did Bloomsbury respond on their 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."

I have been told I am very naive and that I want to believe the best in people. This year, in fact, my New Year’s resolution is to "Treat others with grace and kindness. Do more to help. Spread good cheer." In other words, I want to keep a positive attitude and work for change in a positive manner.

I believe we must continue to encourage publishers to market books with "poc" persons of color. We must hold publishers accountable for perceived racism and demand actions. We must continue to purchase titles with poc on the cover. I see that the publisher has responded. Will they ever make this mistake again? Absolutely,  as will many other publishers. I accept that the publisher responded and apologized. 

Those bloggers who are reading and watching will catch and will draw readers’ attention to errors. Many are resentful that I need to be vigilant. Do I advocate boycotting? NO! I do not see that a boycott helps the cause of increasing the number of titles published each year with POC. That’s my personal opinion. I want everyone reading more titles and publishers producing more titles. Share them with me and I’ll share them with others. I expect bloggers to do the same.

Add these blogs to add to your blogroll to view how some bloggers are addressing these issues:
The PoC Challenge .  
Color Online
Reading in Color 
Amy Bowlan’s series on Writers Against Racism
Debbie Reese’s blog American Indians in Children’s Literature  and her comments on the POC Challenge:
About the "POC Challenge"
Second post: The POC Challenge
The Facebook page Readers Against WhiteWashing
Mitali Perkins blog post Brown Faces Don’t Sell Books? A Poll For Booksellers and Librarians
La Bloga (Chicana, Chicano, Latina, Latino, & more. Literature, Writers, Children’s Literature, News, Views & Reviews)
Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind (a children’s and young adult blog about books set in Asia and books with Asian characters (regardless of where they are published and whether or not their authors and illustrators are Asian), and Asian authors and illustrators (no matter where they are in the world). 
Speaking of challenges, S Krishna issued theSouth Asian Author Challenge to encourage people to read books by South Asian Authors – South Asia being India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

As far as personal opinions go, would you like to know what I thought of Magic Under Glass? Great! Because I’m going to tell you anyway. I wouldn’t bother to chime in on this controversy if I didn’t believe the title was worthy of bringing to your notice.

I enjoyed reading Magic Under Glass and finished it in one sitting. It was a surprising first novel by Jaclyn Dolamore and I will seek out the sequel she is already working on Magic Under Stone. The author’s words quickly wrapped around me and drew me into the arms of the story of trouser girl Nimira, tortured Erris, and wealthy though weak sorcerer Hollin Parry. 

The romantic developments and mystery reminded me of reading the Victorian Gothic romances of my childhood. The difficulties of facing prejudicial society with evil machinations subtly vibrating in the background underscore this work. It’s almost as if you are reading a dance. You glide gracefully along, you romantically gasp at certain moves, yet throughout there is a hidden beat that keeps you on your toes and prepared for any sudden changes in tempo.

The main character’s identify as being from another country is interwoven throughout the story with just 3 references to skin color that I could find. The importance of her country of origin featured far more than race in her cultural values, expectations, and differences within the society where she was living. Her attitude towards the discrimination towards fairies and the fairy taxodermy were progressive in a society that attempted to demean her opinions due to her sex and working class.

I’d like to echo several bloggers who pondered why the publisher called this Magic Under Glass when the glass mentioned played such a tiny role in the story. In fact, I kept expecting more to come from what was under the glass, but it was not developed. This is one part where the author waltzed when I wanted a vigorous tango. Perhaps this will come forth in the sequel; regardless, I think it could have had a different title. 

The cover appealed to the romantic part of my soul that loves long flowing gowns, upswept hair and lacy curtains. The arc had sat on my bedside table for weeks because I anticipated it to be an entertaining romantic read to fill my heart rather than a focal point of racial controversy. I would love to hang out with author Jaclyn Dolamore at an event where we could where various dresses from that period. Anyone care to join me in the sheer romantic thrill of corsets and flowing tresses? During a bookfair several years ago I rented this gown and wished I’d kept it. Anyone want to go shopping through thrift stores for Victorian gowns? 

In the meantime, do not allow controversies over the cover to prevent you from putting this book Magic Under Glass in your library. It is a wonderful first novel and deserves to be on your shelves (with the new cover).