lizabelle: (Default)
A couple of weeks ago, a storm erupted in the blogosphere over the cover of Justine Larbalestier's upcoming book, Liar. Justine posted about it here, and her post includes links to other posts if you're interested in following the conversation further.

From Justine Larbalestier's post: "Micah [the main character] is black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short. As you can see that description does not match the US cover." She also included a photograph of the US basketball player whom she pictured Micah as resembling (Alana Beard, if you want to google her).

The US cover features a white girl, despite objections from the author.

There's a lot more information in Justine's post, but the basic problem is this: publishers believe that putting a picture of a black person on the cover of a book will put off potential buyers.

I'm just one person. But I'm a passionate reader and have been all my life. I blog, I post on facebook and twitter about what I'm reading, I'm a member of a book club, I talk to friends (many of whom are also passionate readers) about books all the time.

As a white, middle-class, heterosexual British woman, I am interested in stories that reflect other experiences. I want to know how it feels to be black or Asian, or First Nations, or Australian Aboriginal. I want to know what it's like to live in Japan, or Vietnam, or the Congo. I want to know how a gay man or woman experiences the world through which I slip so easily with all my privilege.

It's easy to write about me, and it's boring to read about me.

So that's why I seek out books that do not reflect my own experience. Another reason, one that I think is far more important, is that everyone needs someone to identify with. Here is an essay by Pam Noles on the lack of minorities in science fiction and fantasy and how this affects people of colour.

Justine Larbalestier has a passionate post entitled Why My Protags Aren't White. The entire post is well worth reading, but I'm going to quote just a small part of it:

Because a young Hispanic girl I met at a signing thanked me for writing an Hispanic character. Because when I did an appearance in Queens the entirely black and Hispanic teenage audience responded so warmly to my book with two non-white main characters. Because teens, both here and in Australia, have written thanking me for writing characters they could relate to. “Most books are so white,” one girl wrote me.

Dorothy Koomson is a bestselling author whose covers feature black people - that doesn't appear to have put off readers.

A quick glance through my most recent fiction reads brings up the following:

Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell, in which Carribbean culture is transplanted to a sci-fi setting.
Jazz and Beloved by Toni Morrison, about whom I hope little needs to be said.
Pictures of Perfection by Reginald Hill, in which the main character is a gay policeman.
Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave, a memoir by a man who was caught up in the first wave of HIV cases in Australia.
Disobedience by Naomi Alderman, about a lesbian Jewish woman coming to terms with her past.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, a painful but beautiful book chronicling the struggles of a Spokane Indian teenager.
The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale. The main story centres around a heterosexual couple who have a second chance, but the novel's true success story is a gay man with Down's Syndrome, pretty much the only character who emerges happy and well-adjusted.
Song for the Night by Chris Abani, about a child soldier in an unnamed African army.

(It would be interesting to see how many of those books featuring people of colour actually reflect that on the covers.)

I...don't quite know how to wrap this up. I just feel it's important to get the message out to publishers that readers are interested in books about minorities.


lizabelle: (Sparkly flowers)
In the world of writing, as in many other aspects of life, the internet has shortened the gap between producers and consumers. Writers have blogs; so do reviewers, and some people who do completely different things in their working lives keep blogs entirely for the purpose of reviewing books. Facebook and, more recently, Twitter, allow writers to keep their fans up-to-date on everything from what they ate for dinner to the book they're working on.

Sometimes this works brilliantly; young adult author Justine Larbalestier's blog is a constant fount of witty entertainment, and I suspect it conveys a pretty accurate picture of her offline personality, which is great for fans. It also translates into business: I suspect I'm not the only one who's bought her books after becoming hooked on her blog (they're worth reading, by the way).

At other times, I'm tempted to think that authors should be kept well away from the internet, as well as from sharp implements. For example, there's the small matter of public responses to bad reviews.

Look. We all know that writing is a scary business; many authors put their lives and themselves into every book, and so it must be easy to take criticism intensely personally. However, the way to deal with it is not to post an angry rebuttal to negative reviews on Amazon, post a vitriolic screed as a blog comment and tell the reviewer you will hate him til the day you die, or posting the reviewer's phone number and email address to Twitter.


I've long suspected that Anne Rice was a bit batshit; now it seems that Alain de Botton and Alice Hoffman need their internet credentials revoked as well. (From a personal point of view, I am experiencing some schadenfreude over Alain de Botton, whose On Love I recently suffered through for a book club, but am disappointed in Alice Hoffman, whose writing I adore.)

Anyway. If a review pisses you off, put a bullet through the reviewer's book if you have to, or write long, furious screeds about how they've ruined your career...but do those things privately. If they become public, people will mock you; it's as simple as that.
lizabelle: (Book stack)
Wuthering Heights is not a love story.

Heathcliff is not a romantic hero. He is a self-involved lunatic.

Wuthering Heights is about what happens when two utterly selfish people fall in love (or more accurately, become obsessed with one another). Most of the story is about the fallout from that (which affects EVERYONE AROUND THEM because they're so bloody selfish).

This rant was brought to you by Literary Cads and Bounders on the ABC.

Clearly I need a ranty icon.


lizabelle: (Default)

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