shweta_narayan (shweta_narayan) wrote,

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An(other) open letter to Bloomsbury Kids USA

A real open letter this time, now that I'm calmed down to the point of some coherence.

Note: I have sent this to and; ellen_datlow lists contact information  here.

Formatting set up for my email.


To whom it may concern,

The sun set on the British Empire a while ago.  Thought you might like to know.

I am an adult of color, a writer and a voracious reader.  I spend hundreds of dollars a year on YA books alone, since I'll buy multiple copies of good YA books as presents for younger friends and family members.   I don't believe I'm the sort of customer you want to lose.  And I am appalled at you.

By pretending that people like myself don't exist, don't buy books, or will shut up and put up with your blatant, insulting whitewashing of covers, you are doing precisely that.

If I had seen your original cover of Liar[1] in the store, I would have shrugged, moved on, maybe considered checking it out of the library -- despite liking Justine Larbalestier's work.  It's a pretty boring cover.  (I tell you this because you seem to have no idea how dull and interchangeable the shelves full of white-kid images look.)

The cover you gave Liar in the wake of massive controversy[2] is not just closer to accurate; it's also far more interesting.  As it happens, I knew from descriptions of the book (and how badly your original cover misrepresents it) that it's fascinating -- but had I known nothing about the controversy, I would still have been intrigued by the cover you actually went with.  I bought the book. 

To be clear: I would have bought Liar without knowing anything about the controversy.  I would not, however, have bought the book with the cover you originally intended.  And I don't seem to be the only one. 

However, it seems you've learned nothing from reader responses to your screw-up over Liar, since your cover of Magic Under Glass, by Jaclyn Dolamore[3], features yet another generic Period white-girl.  Yaawn.

How fortunate for you there is another controversy[4]. (Did you think there wouldn't be, or are you cynically using us to do your PR?) Your generic-pretty (and insultingly whitewashed) cover wouldn't get a second look from me -- why should it, among the dozens and dozens of period white-girl images with "Magic" in the title?  But the book itself promises a fascinating cross-cultural culture-mix point of view.  A Victorian-esque fantasy with a Persian-esque protagonist[5] is precisely the sort of book I'd grab -- and get copies to pass on if I enjoyed it.

Your cover misrepresentation doesn't just offend any reasonable sensibility; it is boring.  You do an original-sounding new author a real injustice with it.  However, since you seem to be stuck in the 1980s (1950s?) with your apparent belief that nobody will buy books with brown people on the cover, allow me to clue you in: people of color read, too.  Your habit of insulting and belittling us this way is really damn stupid.  And the number of our white allies who notice, speak up, and are out of patience with your reactionary practices is growing.

I'll be watching your response to the current controversy, and I will be watching how you respond in the long run.  I would hate to boycott a publisher, since it's a move that would hurt authors too, but if you continue the way you have been, I shall be recategorizing you as too idiotically racist to support.

Shweta Narayan

[4] / / / / http: //
[5] Who looks great here:
Tags: bloomsbury, magic under glass, open letter, racefail
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