Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cover Snark: POC Erasure

The above image comes from a truly excellent study into YA covers performed by Kate Hart and we strongly urge everyone to go read her brilliant piece and the amazing work she’s put in on this to raise a very vital point about publishing.

Naturally following this excellent study we cast a gaze over the books we’ve read. Before we go any further we stress that we realise this is a publisher problem, not an author problem - authors usually have very little control over the covers of their books.
Still, there is one area where authors do bear some responsibility -  most of the books we’ve read won’t have a POC on the cover quite simply because they don’t have a major POC in the actual book. The erasure that is so common in the genre automatically assumes a white person on the cover because that’s what the reader will find within anyway. Even if the publishers were saints and faithfully representing the content on the covers, we’d still see a vastly overwhelming White majority.


But moving towards those few that do have POC major characters and we run into problems.  A lot of the time we just don’t have the character on the cover - or we use a figure where race is indistinguishable like the silhouette we saw last week or this cover from Kenya Wright’s excellent Fire Baptised. One good thing we are happy to report is that the Midnight Riot covers are changing! So that particular erasure will be fixed - and an awesome book does deserve an awesome cover

 Some are even more blatant. The covers show white people, even when the characters within are supposed to be POC.

In many others we see what is probably best described as an ambiguous portrayal. The character could certainly be POC... but could just as easily be White. It’s not exactly definitive

Out of the many hundred books we’ve read, there are actually very few that we can look at and see a POC on the cover.

Now, there are covers with White protagonists that also have abstract covers, or silhoutettes certainly, so spare us the rush to the comments! But there are more than enough White people on the front of books to make up for it. A White person can walk into a book store or spend some time browsing Amazon (something I’m only allowed to do with my credit card confiscated) and be confident to see many many covers declaring “hey, you’re in here! This book is for you! This book is about you! This book is aimed at you!”. POC as is clear in both Kate Hart‘s study and even a brief look at our own reviews, faces a very different story.