deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
[personal profile] deborah
I subjected the poor subscribers to the Diana Wynne Jones mailing list to my rant on poor representation of both authors and characters of color in the YA Fantasy Showdown, but I didn't want to subject you all to it. For one thing, it's clear the creator of the showdown tried; I just think she did a fairly poor job.

Anyway, in the current round of voting, I noticed several comments that made me exceedingly happy. Right now Ai Ling (Cindy Pon, Silver Phoenix) is up versus Jace (Cassandra Clare, Mortal Instruments trilogy). Jace is predictably if annoyingly beating Ai Ling simply because, as several of the comments say, jace gets my vote because he is hot. But one of the other commenters on this round of voting says, Never heard of Ai Ling but sounds like she's gona win. Also, is she chinese? Because I'm chinese, and you don't get many cool chinese characters so I feel like I need to show her some support...even if Jace is hot! Another says I've never read Silver Pheonix before, but I totally want to now.

In other words, Silver Phoenix isn't less popular because it's less good. It's less popular because nobody has heard of it. If readers haven't seen it, they can't make their own judgments about whether it equally good or not. (I acknowledge that even if readers had read it, Mortal Instruments certainly appeals more to contemporary young adult tastes in twisted paranormal romances. But the point is, readers aren't being given the opportunity to make that judgment for themselves. And in the meantime, participants in this showdown, both those who identify as Chinese and those who don't, are really excited by learning about the existence of the book.)

This is it is so important for we in the children's and young adult mediating business -- and these days that includes not just booksellers, teachers, librarians, and parents but also bloggers -- to care about representation. It's appalling but true that Silver Phoenix got shafted by the major bookselling chains because they didn't want a fantasy with an Asian girl on the cover. Those same readers who saw Jace every time they walk into a bookstore never saw Ai Ling. By the same token, they never saw Zahrah, Anand and Nisha, or Quincie Morris. If we bloggers, when we talk about young adult literature, remember to talk about those underrepresented books, teens will read what we have to say.

Well, not what I have to say. I'd be surprised if I had any teen readers. But you know what I mean. *g*

Date: 2010-08-17 09:18 am (UTC)
lady_schrapnell: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lady_schrapnell
Is it actually proven fact that Borders skipped it because of the cover? I know that may sound as if I'm being horribly skeptical, and HarperCollins' change to the pb cover proof that they believed it would help, but it only shows that the original cover + whatever book-pushing they did on the first edition didn't get it into Borders. (this is interesting, maybe.) That's not the same as saying that Borders did not take the book because it had an Asian girl on the cover. Or even because it had an Asian girl on the cover of a fantasy.

Of course I agree it's important to talk about underrepresented books (and I can say this without a hint of defensiveness as I did talk about Silver Phoenix*), but I remember quite a bit of buzz about it when it came out, from the YA book bloggers and also from other authors. This is a good reminder to leave a comment politely challenging the inclusion of Eugenides and Katniss as CoC in the Fantasy Showdown though, which I should have done right away.

*Probably 0 teen readers myself too, and few of any other variety, but some!

Date: 2010-08-17 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kumquatmay.livejournal.com
Borders skipping a title isn't surprising--their finances are ick, and frankly, they're not taking a LOT of titles, cover or not, lead title on the list or not. I can't speak to B&N's reasoning, though it often depends on which buyer this went to. Though the original cover is gorgeous as a piece of art, I don't know that I love it as a book cover (it's very pink and has that photo+photoshop art that is starting to feel a little dated to my eye).

I hate the choice of photos for the repackage--I wish they'd shown the ethnicity of the model more prominently--but overall, it's a better piece of design for the marketplace (more dramatic color and design, comparable to what's selling in the genre today). The sad thing is that what makes the design more modern and appealing would not change if they'd have gone with a more accurate cover model--it only would have been stronger, in my opinion.

I suspect the reason for the fade at the top, the ambiguity, is that these are stock photos (and most stock photos that are of pretty, thin, white girls who are models), and not even stock photos of the same model. Which doesnt' surprise me, as cover shoots are expensive, which makes the repackage even more expensive.

Date: 2010-08-18 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kumquatmay.livejournal.com
Oh, I totally agree that when they did the repackage, they should have made it a stronger cover that also features an accurate depiction of the character and the world.

I think often people in the industry and commenters have a hard time divorcing "gorgeous piece of art" and "successful cover." What appeals to us aesthetically is not always going to make a good cover.

(don't even get me started on the many many YA book bloggers goning on how they hate such and such feature/trend for covers--photos,cropping, etc.--because it doesn't catch THEIR eye. Well, we aren't publishing YA for the adult readers of YA--we're publishing YA for YAs, who may or may not feel the same way you do. Sorry. Digression.)

And yet that's no reason NOT TO BE ACCURATE, you know? There's no reason whatsoever that you can't create an awesome, appealing modern cover that also accurately reflects the main character. NONE.
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