Sunday, February 7, 2010

Diversity in YA Cover Art

The blogosphere has had an ongoing controversy over the cover images chosen to represent characters of color in young adult novels - most recently at Feministe, but also, and extensively, at Alas, A Blog. At issue is not just the fact that not only are people of color rarely represented in the text of young adult fiction. On top of that, when non-white protagonists do appear, they are too often "whitewashed" - depicted as white in the cover art.

How can librarians develop a collection that speaks to and about young people of color - without accepting whitewashing?

One possibility is to buy alternate editions of the books with more accurate cover images. In the Feministe post linked above, blogger Chally shows the UK and Australian editions of affected books. Neither of the alternate editions clearly shows characters of color, but at least they don't replace those characters with white people. However, foreign editions are more expensive, and may not always be an option.

I'm not sure I have an answer, but readers do judge books by their covers, and inclusive, accurate covers are an issue in developing an inclusive collection.

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