Hello everybody!! Hope you are all having a great Sunday!

Let’s get down to business as we have something important to report:

OH SNAP: Whitewashing 2011 – The case of Across the Universe by Beth Revis OR We Are So Tired Of This Shit

It has been brought to our attention that the cover of Across the Universe by Beth Revis, a book that features an interracial romance, seems to be the latest case of whitewashing and this time the culprit is Razorbill. There is an in-depth report by the folks over at The Interrobangs blog, with quotes from the book which suggests that that’s exactly what has happened; and it is very clear for anybody to see too. Behold, the comparison between the ARC, which features the main male character correctly as a PoC, and the final cover of the book which has SEVERELY and DISTINCTLY whitewashed said character:

We haven’t read the book yet nor do we have the ARC so we can’t really confirm which cover is more accurate according to how the character is described but by all accounts this does seem to be a case of whitewashing. Has anyone around here read the book? What do you think of the difference between covers?

African-American Read-In

We are a little late reporting this (sorry Ari!) but, to celebrate the 2011 National African American Read-In, Ari of Reading in Color, Doret of theHappyNappyBookseller and Edi of Crazy Quilts put together a list of 6 YA titles by African American authors for people to vote on. The idea is that a group of people will read one of those 6 books and they will hold a community discussion on it sometime in February. Voting ended last Friday but you can still be a part of the read-in. We will keep you posted as soon as we know, as to when and where the discussion will take place.

ETA: After counting the votes, the winner is Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (one of Ana’s top 10 books of 2010).

Giveaway Winners:

The three winners of copies of Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles are:

Jenni (comment#78)

Natalie D (comment#106)

Ailsa (comment#23)

Congratulations to the winners! As usual, please send us an email (contact AT thebooksmugglers DOT com) with your snail mail address, and we will get your winnings off to you as quickly as possible. Thanks again to all that entered!

This Week on The Book Smugglers

On Monday, Ana tries her hand at another Lit Fic novel and reviews Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

On Tuesday, Thea reviews dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA novel The Water Wars by journalist Cameron Stracher.

On Wednesday, it’s Thea’s turn again to review Fantasy novel First Truth written by one of her favourite UF authors Kim Harrison, writing under the name of Dawn Cook.

Then, on Thursday we kick-off our Michelle Harrison two-day special with Ana’s reviews of 13 Curses and 13 Secrets, the two final books in the 13 Treasures trilogy….

Followed by a Guest Post by the author on Friday with a giveaway:

And that’s it from us today! Until Monday, we remain….

This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult

~ Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers

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38 Responses to Smugglers’ Stash and News

  1. Ceilidh says:

    I wondered this myself with the Across The Universe cover on my ARC. Elder is definitely mixed race. The entire lighting on the UK ARC seems much brighter, I was hoping it was just a glitch for the ARC cover since the final cover that was online was the other one. Damnit.

  2. Carolin says:

    I was totally disgusted when I found out about this.

    After only being able to reproduce with each other for hundreds of years, the people on the ship became a mono ethnic race. It’s a mix between black and white. You can see the description in the link you guys posted. And it fits perfectly with the ARC picture.

    A HUGE plot point of the book is that Amy is completely and utterly different to everyone on the ship, because she is white and has red hair. Because she is different to all of them, she as a white person is shunned.

    I finished the book this week and I absolutely loved it for its eye-opening way of looking at differences. Sadly the cover doesn’t represent the contents.

  3. Gerd D. says:

    I must admit I don’t see it, the racial thing.
    I do notice that the changes to the face make it aesthetically more pleasing to my eye, but I couldn’t really put a ethnicity to either character.

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Book Smugglers, Sarah Moon. Sarah Moon said: Grrrr. Again? RT @booksmugglers OH SNAP, another case of Whitewashing? Across the Universe by Beth Revis http://tinyurl.com/5rcsrhs [...]

  5. Sean Wills says:

    Hey, thanks for the link to our blog! That post on Across the Universe has generated quite a few comments, so feel free to go over and add your opinion :)

  6. I had just assumed that the cover had been photoshopped, as gravity had not been friendly to the male model in that position. It could also be the strong lighting washing out the model (as in White Cat).

    I will agree that the male model looks caucasian (both versions), but I don’t think Elder’s ethnicity is meant to be easily discernible one way or the other. As I understood it, the citizens of the Godspeed weren’t a mix of “black and white”, but so ethnically mixed over the centuries that Amy wasn’t sure what his race was.

    From p. 86 of the ARC:
    “I’m not sure what race he is – not black, but not white; neither Hispanic nor Asian. It’s a nice color, though – dark in a creamy sort of way that compliments his almost-black hair. The high cut of his cheekbones and the strong curve of his forehead make him look instantly trustworthy…”

    I would be interested in seeing what Beth Revis says.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  7. KB/KT Grant says:

    If Across the Universe is indeed yet another example of white washed covers, the publisher will have to explain itself because readers, including bloggers aren’t that stupid and will call them out on it.

  8. Animejune says:

    I’m sorry, but put me in the “I don’t notice any change in race” camp. The face is practcally in silhouette and frankly I don’t see how this is meant to be “obviously” white. I believe white washing is a real problem but jumping to little editorial changes and making mountains out of mole hills isn’t helping anybody.

  9. Doret says:

    I think rushing to call every cover whitewashing, takes away from all the covers that were actually Whitewashed. I hope this doesn’t get big, because the next time whitewashing happens no one will listen. I am close to not listening myself. (Don’t believe that last line it justed sounded good)

  10. Sean Wills says:

    To those people who don’t think this is an example of whitewashing: which part of Phoebe’s analysis in the Interrobangs post do you disagree with?

    Also, in reply to #6, I seriously doubt the model was photographed ‘upside down’, in the same position he was meant to be in on the cover. I assumed they’d just photograph him standing up and then turn the image 90 degrees.

  11. Katieblue says:

    I gotta admit, I’m black, and the guy in the new ATU cover still looks black to me. To me it looks like they were just trying to make him look more attractive, that’s all…

  12. Ana says:

    Whereas I can’t say which cover depicts the character better because I haven’t read the book yet, the difference between the covers to me, is plain.

  13. Phoebe North says:

    Oh wow, thanks for linking to my post!

    For those who say that the original model looks caucasian: bzzt, wrong. Sorry. If you read the comments to the post (and I suppose I should edit this into the main text), you’ll see that I came across an ebook that used the same stock photo and ran a tineye search on it (link expires in 72 hours, but I’ll go ahead and grab a screen cap and update the blog for the nay-sayers). The original model for the stock photo was clearly a person of color–he even has an afro.

    I mean, come, people. Seriously.

  14. bram says:

    Its possible, but I think we should be careful of identifying a specific set of facial characteristics as belonging uniquely to ‘mixed race’ people (and by that I’m sure you mean mixed as in black/white as there are a plethora of different combinations). When we start saying ‘this is what a black/black-white person looks like’ then we start to fall down the slippery slope towards essentialism which, in terms of equal and fair discourse, sometimes does more harm than good.

    For example, I know very few dark-skinned men who look like that, but it seems we’re making the judgement that he is dark-skinned because his cheeks and lips are bigger than the one on the right. Can you see why I might find this a little problematic? Although if those features are truly meant to clue us into his ‘non-whiteness’, I think it’s also the fault of the publishers for using that photo to prey on our prejudgements on what ‘mixed race’ people ‘should look like’ rather than actually clearly showing him as mixed race or clearly showing him having dark skin (which the lighting of the book strategically makes difficult).

    Anyway, this specific issue I think goes deeper than just a case of a before and after whitewashing. I’d say the before itself, including our own judgments on what black people do and do not look like, need to be re-examined. But I do think that the publishing industry on a whole largely fails at diversity on book covers, and in books in general. LARGELY fails. A lot of editors won’t fess up to it either, and a lot of publishers too, which really just annoys the shit out of me, but I hope that one day they get their heads out of their arses, stop making excuses for themselves and stop painting the world white, because really, it ISN’T thank you very much.

  15. GrowlyCub says:

    Phoebe,

    I think you are overlooking a very important point. It doesn’t matter what the ethnicity is of the actual model. What matters is what it looks like to the readers.

    I had seen this cover (not sure which one or both) a couple of times and to me it clearly looked like 2 *women* signaling a f/f story.

    That’s what it still looks like to me, even knowing it’s supposed to be a guy. Nothing you can say to tell me how wrong or stupid I am for seeing what I see will change that.

    Also, to me neither version looks AA or PoC, the second version looks slimmed down. My immediate impression was: ‘oh, great, another sign of how we all have to be super slim to be on a cover’.

  16. Sean Wills says:

    #15: Uh…okay, I’m not really sure how you can think that looks like two women, but I’ll go with it.

    It definitely does matter what ethnicity the original model is. If the publisher saw that image and thought ‘We can’t/shouldn’t have a a non-white person on the cover of this book’, then that’s a major problem. Even if nobody picked up on it and it was only obvious to the person designing the cover, that would still be a problem.

  17. Phoebe North says:

    Also, I want to say that I agree with the spirit of what Bram’s saying very much: that race is more than a sum of stereotyped characteristics, that the publishers were already doing something that was little more than a token and perhaps shallow acknowledgement of the racial complexities that the author raised within the book’s pages. I don’t think this is the first time this has been done (when the original, whitewashed cover of Jaclyn Dolamore’s Magic Under Glass came out, I couldn’t help but wonder if the lighting was dimmed to disguise the fact that they were using a light-skinned model for a dark-skinned character).

    However, there’s still something deeply problematic about altering the fact of a stock photo of a person of color to minimize characteristics that are commonly “read” in our society as belong to PoC–particularly when those characteristics are also in-line with the author’s descriptions of the character in the pages of her book. I also think there’s something deeply problematic about about the responses that go, “That guy doesn’t look like a PoC–he looks fat/ugly.” It makes me sad, and sounds like the responses our society has tried to ingrain in us about what beauty is supposed to look like. Thin-lipped. Thin. And probably white.

  18. Kai Charles says:

    I was just going to write about this! Honestly I couldn’t 100% tell the race of the mail character some edges of the female characters hair so I knew she was white. I enjoyed the book and the cover I thunk it would have been great to maybe have the races of the characters clearly shown since Beth made the characters this way

  19. janicu says:

    I had the same reaction as Jennifer from An Abundance of Books above. From what I read of Ender’s race all I understood was that his color was a creamy brown/tan. His features were not described in enough detail for me to say that the cover wasn’t accurate.

  20. janicu says:

    And now I’m back from reading the link to the blog post above. It’s creepy that they changed someone’s race via photoshop. I wouldn’t have realized though or thought it was white washing because I didn’t see the original cover and like I said above, I didn’t have a real image in my mind of what Elder’s features looked like.

  21. Lisa Parkin says:

    Thea- Will it be your first time reading First Truth? This whole series is one of my all-time favorites!! I love the whole concept of the novels!

    What do you guys think of the redesigned cover? I have all the old covers, and honestly I think the main character, Alissa look like a trussed up goldilocks…just my opinion though! haha :wink:

  22. Sylvia Sybil says:

    For everyone who’s saying that the original model was just fat/ugly and for everyone who’s saying this is too little to bother with, I have a blog post explaining why this is a big deal.

  23. AudryT says:

    They nipped and tucked away his uniqueness for the sake of symmetry. Welcome to the bland genericism of YA covers. They must be skinny, they must have traditional Caucasian bone structure and body shapes, they must be clearly white whenever one can get away with it, and subtly white otherwise. They must be superficial mirrors of the shallow, white teenage reader — or rather, what marketing has decided is the “shallow” and supposedly primarily “white” teenage reader.

    It’s a good cover, aesthetically speaking, and not the most offensive cover that ever existed, but that doesn’t excuse it from being one of thousands of covers that paint a consistent picture in broad strokes for those who browse the YA section, sending the message that diversity must, in the end, mimic Caucasian ideals or be hidden from sight. One book carrying this message is only a symptom; it’s ALL of them carrying the message, over and over again, that is the underlying problem. There are only a few exceptions to endless parade of white covers, and those tend to prove the rule that the “white demographic” still dominates the marketing sector of the publishing industry.

    Over the past few years, the YA category has become more and more diverse, with an impressive range of ethnicities and cultures represented between the pages…but honestly, you wouldn’t know it from looking at the covers.

  24. Now that I’ve read the book, which by the way is amazing, what upsets me about this cover is that when told the protagonist is Not White, they reached for a stock photo of a black man.

    Which Elder clearly is not.

    He’s brown, yes–a combination of a lot of races from Asian to black to white–but he’s not black. There’s even a point in the book when he does see a black woman, and he thinks to himself that she looks different: darker skin, kinky hair.

    HELLO. There are, like, billions of people in this world who are neither black nor white. Some of them even have more than one race! Setting aside for now the problematic photoshopping (and I do that only because others have talked about the troubling implications), the choice of stock implies that all people of color can be lumped into one monolithic group. There’s White, and there’s Other.

    Given the undertones of the book celebrating difference, this makes me want to weep.

  25. Sylvia Sybil says:

    Courtney, I agree with you that a binary view of race (white/nonwhite) is very damaging. That’s why the term “people of color” was coined, because of the Othering and negativity in the phrase “nonwhite”. And surely the publishers could have found a stock photo of a male model with olive skin and almond eyes, who better represented Elder’s actual appearance.

    However, I think that having a Black model represent the fictional race of monoethnics is much better than a White model (which is apparently what the photoshopping was trying to achieve), both in terms of in-universe accuracy and in terms of out-of-universe implications.

  26. Emily says:

    My two cents on the Across the Universe cover: I couldn’t even tell that one of the characters featured on the cover was supposed to be black until I read a review of the book. That, in itself, shows that the cover is whitewashed more than the cosmetic changes made ever could.

  27. Angelique says:

    Oh good grief, this isn’t a case of white washing. And Elder isn’t supposed to be black.
    Has anyone actually confirmed that the other picture was on the ARC or are we just accepting it because we read it on the internet??

  28. Phoebe North says:

    I wasn’t going to respond any more, but–good grief, indeed. Angelique, would a picture of me taken two months ago with my ARC copy convince you? I actually received two of these ARCs in the mail, and Beth Revis announced it as the initial cover on her blog, and it wasn’t exactly a huge secret.

    I don’t see what good it would do me to make this up, frankly.

  29. Thea says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I have to wholeheartedly affirm Ana’s & Phoebe’s points – the first cover is clearly a PoC, and the liberal photoshopping for the final cover is unacceptable, IMO.

    Angelique, rest assured that the ARC cover *is* real. I have a copy and am looking at it right now. I can upload a separate picture if anyone else doubts the authenticity of the matter.

    I encourage everyone to fully read Phoebe’s post and the comments both here and at her blog – which should clear up some of the weird assumptions and repetitions that seem to keep popping up.

    (And I will be reading and reviewing the book soon, too!)

  30. Lop says:

    This whole thing is pretty confusing. The point is we’re arguing over whitewashing a black person who represents a character of a different race (monoethnic). So the black model should not have actually been used on the cover to begin with, and now he’s been ‘slimmed’ to look less black.

    But is that a case of whitewashing or a case of making the model look more ‘monoethnic’ — which would obviously require him to look less black? I’m not sure if that’s whitewashing, to be honest. That new ‘slimmed’ model up there doesn’t look white to me either — he looks like a mixed-race boy…which is the point.

    There’s two routes here. One is that its plain old whitewashing and kind of racist. The other one is that it’s just a correction, because the model really is too distinctly of one race to represent the character well. I guess it’s all about the intention of the editor, and I guess we’ll probably never find out, eh?

    I’m going down the less cynical route because it does my head in to think otherwise. I think it’s a correction, simply because the new picture is not one of a white boy. It’s, uhh, mixedracewashing or something… :?

  31. Casey says:

    I agree with others who didn’t see the difference right away. When I examined the profile closely it looked like the same boy – only photo shopped. I think Photoshop is the great deceiver of our time. Propaganda may have been the method of the past – but Photoshop changes it from cartoons and caricatures to “real people” and makes the deception that much LESS clear. Check out this video and see for yourself what Photoshop can do. It’s a real eye opener. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFPGa0pKyTg

    If that doesn’t set you off – check out Killing us Softly at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1993368502337678412# It’s more about media and advertising, but it still addresses the Photoshop element. What they are able to do – and what they ACTUALLY DO with Photoshop is amazing.

  32. Elie says:

    Wow, I love seeing people get passionate about their books!

    I agree with most, that Elder is not supposed to be what most of us consider to be Black. He is a blend of every race known to us. This book takes place hundreds and hundreds of years from today. I mean what if we mixed everyone, what would they look like. I don’t think this is a clear cut case of whitewashing due to the characters intended ethnicity.

  33. Perhaps it’s because I have lousy eyesight, but due to the contrast and shadows on BOTH covers, I had to squint to make out the ethnicity of either male figure. To me, it looked far less like a case of whitewashing than a case of “skinny-fying” the male model – his chin, cheeks, and forehead were shaved down to create a thinner profile. Whether that counts as whitewashing or a case of “everyone must be slim,” I shall leave up to others to decide.

  34. I saw this at another blog (Raych’s). I didn’t see the two male faces side by side, and couldn’t detect a discernible difference between the two.

    What about the female faces? Did her greytone change from one to the next?

    It looks like a change to increase contrast against the new nebular background. That’d be my guess.

  35. xenelle says:

    To be honest it took me a while to actually SEE a difference to the covers besides the background. Plus that I couldn’t tell anything about the race or gender of the models due to the it being a silhouette, though TBH I don’t really like book covers with people/stock images on them as a) the person doesn’t match with my mental image of the character and b) I like the cover to show me more about the plot, as in I’d guess that this is a romance and probably wouldn’t have picked it up as I’m not a fan big of romance.

  36. Alethea says:

    Being a brown person and currently reading ATU, I have to say I’m not offended by the cover change! The character Elder is specifically described by the other MC, Amy, as looking neither black nor Asian nor Hispanic etc…. the whole point of the *lack* of difference between the inhabitants of Godspeed is that they have been blended genetically and exhibit traits of many races at once. The romance isn’t interracial–Elder is multi-racial!!

    Elder has dark brown skin, almond eyes, brown/almost black hair… possibly an Irish accent? LOL. As a brown person looking at the first (African-American looking) sample, I can recognize facial cues that tell me that the model is probably black; yet in the character described in the book we are supposed to see a little bit of ourselves, no matter what race the reader. The second one (that made it to the final cover) is more ambiguous–could be black, brown, etc.–and I think it better expresses how mixed in race Elder is.

    So I say nay on whitewashing! This is nowhere near as blatant as the Liar or Magic Under Glass mistakes.

  37. Ailsa says:

    Eep! Didn’t see this at first! Have now emailed, sorry!

  38. [...] has been a bit of a shooting star across the sci-fi/teen/YA fiction universe, but not without its controversy. I don’t think I’ll touch on that here – it’s pretty much been covered from [...]

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