If you haven’t heard what’s happened yet, let me inform you. Liar is a YA novel written by Justine Larbalesteir is about a young woman who is a pathological liar, she also happens to be black. When the US cover was released, people were shocked and angry – why? Because, the girl on the cover is white:
The Australian cover is in the back and the US cover is in the front. What does this say about the publishing industry? That they are making inexcusable decisions about what will sell and what won’t; they are making inexcusable excuses that try to justify racism.
When I first read about the controversy, I was so incredibly angered that I had nothing to say. Nothing but spewing angry comments that would have done nothing to further the discussion. I have calmed down, though I have lost none of my anger at the situation.
When I brought up the Liar controversy at lunch with some girlfriends the other day, my friend who is a journalism major, described what it was like working for an agency that dealt with models and advertising. She said the overt racism in relation to what would sell and what would not was disgusting. It is not just books, but clothing ads and television commercials for anything and everything. Then it extends to issues of gender as well. What needs to change? Do our buying habits need to change before the industry will? Or does the industry need to take an initiative? I feel like I am banging my head against the wall, because I don’t know the answer to that question. In an ideal world, the industry would take the initiative to change the way we buy. But I know that that too is naive: money is first. Always.
I do know that what I can do is write an email, expressing my anger and frustration, not only with the original decision to make the girl on the cover white, but also with their excuse. A sorry excuse that is, probably, an outright lie:
“The entire premise of this book is about a compulsive liar,” said Melanie Cecka, publishing director of Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA and Walker Books for Young Readers, who worked on Liar. “Of all the things you’re going to choose to believe of her, you’re going to choose to believe she was telling the truth about race?”
I just don’t believe it. Maybe it’s true, but if it is (and I doubt it is) then they made a huge mistake. I have never read one of Larbalesteir’s books, and I would love to in the future. This clearly is not a reflection on her, in any way. But if you want to say something about this, send the publisher an email. Let them know that we are paying attention, and it’s not right anymore.
Join Color Online in reading more diverse books for the month of August, I know I am!