Apparently there aren't any books for other minorities to read either. Or at least you can't tell just by looking at them.
The new covers don't excite me at all. They look rather generic. They aren't ugly covers or anything and I can understand why they went this route. It's a necessary evil. The trend is that books that look like paranormal romances are selling. That's the impression I get from this and I'd be less inclined to pick up this book with the new repackaging. I'd be more inclined to pick up the first book, just because it's something different. It's unfortunate that it has to come down to this. The cover looks ambiguous. She looks white washed, but I really can't tell. I can definitely tell you that she's not as Asian as the girl on the front of the book. And that's really disappointing. (And me being an idiot, I didn't even realize it was the same book)
It's disheartening to walk into a bookstore and see that there are no books with characters that look like you, act like you, talk like you, and go through the same struggles that you do. If you really want to read, you get over it, but there comes a point in time when you just can't take it anymore. When you walk into a bookstore there is nothing but (white) girl's with slender bodies, their heads cut off, holding something that is important to the story and aesthetically pleasing. I want a book with a tall curvy black girl with purple cornrows in an anime/Harry Potter/nerdfighter t-shirt, jeans, argyle socks, and converse. I want a book with an Asian girl on the cover. I want a book with a Latina on the cover. I want a book with a Middle Eastern girl on the cover. I want a book with a Native American girl on the cover. I want books that have covers that look like my friends. I want books that reflects the multicultural world we live in. And I want you, dear Booksellers, to put those books with all the headless skinny white girl books. I don't want you to separate them into little book ghettos, where the books with Black girls are shoved into the darkest corner of the store or the Asian books are put in the Asian studies section. Put these books where they belong. If it's an Asian inspired YA Fantasy, put in the YA fantasy section. And don't get sneaky and put it in the bottom of the shelf when everything else is in alphabetical order.
If I were a bookseller, I'd make the shelves as diverse as possible. Thank God for Indie Booksellers. But unfortunately, many cities (including mine, I think) don't have Indie booksellers. Instead, we are left to the whims of our corporate book-selling overlords, Borders and Barnes & Noble, or if you're like me and have to chose between leisure books, books for school, food, or fuel (tough choice, believe me), go to the library. The library is smart enough to stock its shelves with a diverse range of books. When I walk in there and go to the YA section, I don't feel alienated. I know that I can usually find the book I'm looking for and a few books about PoC that I didn't expect the find. They're even prominently featured on the stands. (of course I have million dollars worth of library fines, so I haven't been for a while).
Why can't I find this same setup when I walk into a bookstore when I'm ready to shell out money and buy some books. And when I go to the bookstore and I've got money to toss around (which is rare, but it happens when the school refund checks come. Thank God for refunds), I don't just buy one book. I buy at least 4 or 5, especially PoC books. In fact, out of 14 books that I bought in the last three months, only 2 of them probably feature exclusively white characters. Most of the books that I bought prominently feature PoC characters or some minority (LGBTQ and people with "disabilities"(gosh I hate that word)). I even have a *gasp* Asian inspired fantasy. Shouldn't a bookstore reflect a diverse world? According to this site, "Asian buying power has the second fastest projected rate of growth... Asian buying power will grow 434 percent between 1990 and 2011." Isn't that something to get concerned and even excited about. It would behoove booksellers (and publishers) to cater to new audiences while enticing the old. Try some new marketing techniques, do something. Be proactive. Create some excitement over the book instead of just letting it sit there collect dust on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf. Don't leave books to be chosen just by the masses. I mean look at all the crap the masses choose. Twilight? Are you kidding me? What a joke? Yet, what is it that they are doing to get these books into the hands of the masses?
It's clear that the publishers have taken a look at what others are doing. Obviously that's the reason why they are repackaging the books. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. I understand their situation and frankly as an author and as a publisher, it's a tough situation to find yourself in. I don't think it's their fault in this case. After all, publishing is a business and it's all about what sells. It's just unfortunate that "Don't judge a book by it's cover" still has a role in American society and in the bookstores(of all places.Talk about irony).
But here's my take on the cover. To look at the first cover with the fierce Asian girl, I wouldn't know what to think, but I'd be intrigued. I'd at least pick it up and read the summary. I'd even glance at the first couple pages and look through. I would probably go home and research the book a little before I bought it. (I don't buy my books willy-nilly most of the time). If the reviews are good, if I had the money, I'd buy it. And if I don't have the money, I'd look it up at the library. If I enjoyed it, I'd recommend it to my friends who also like to read and in turn, hopefully they'd recommend it to their friends. Besides, I have this little blog in my corner of the world, but the true reason why I keep this blog is to keep track of the books that I read. Even though it's small, people do read it. There are even bigger blogs than mine that have many followers. Word would get around.
However, if I saw the new packages, I'd probably dismiss them as being another Twilight (but oddly enough better written) knock-off. I doubt that I'd even bother to pick them up with the new cover.
I guess the take home message of this post is that I think it's sad that it's come down to repackaging the book in a more ethnically ambiguous package just to get sales. In this case it's not the publisher's fault or the author's fault, it's the people choosing which books to have in their bookstores. I hope there's a day when there can be a more ethnically diverse bookshelf, but it's clear that today will not be the day. I hope the publishers know what they are doing and I wish the best of luck to the author, Cindy Pon, in this bittersweet time. (this book is going on my reading list)
In the meantime, Ari from Reading in Color is writing a letter to the bigwigs up at Barnes and Noble and Borders. If they do stock more multicultural books, we've got to start buying them. (time to save up that refund check.)