Pretty White Girls

Standard

I took my eleven year old daugh­ter to the Half-Price book­store today.  She already knew which book she want­ed before we arrived, Eragon by Paoli­ni.  We had a copy of it some­where around the house from when my twen­ty-one year old read it many years ago but we couldn’t find it.  Even though she already had her book choice in hand, we freely browsed the “teen book” sec­tion for oth­er poten­tial­ly inter­est­ing titles.  My eldest daugh­ter, nine­teen years old, also along for the ride, decid­ed on a whim to ran­dom­ly choose books to pull from the shelf.  She would read the title then show me the cov­er.  She did this with about ten books before find­ing one that seemed unique.

Me

Aidar­ile via Comp­fight

What made that eleventh book unique?  It did not fea­ture the ethe­re­al­ly glow­ing face of a pret­ty white girl (PWG).

I imag­ine that this is what sells, books with pic­tures on the cov­er of thin, wispy, fair-skinned beau­ties, espe­cial­ly in this Twi­light era, but who are they sell­ing to?  While on the face of it there is noth­ing wrong with a cov­er that fea­tures a white girl, the absolute over­abun­dance of these cov­ers says many things to this moth­er of two dark-skinned daugh­ters.

Pretty Girl in the Cherry Blossoms

Trey Rat­cliff via Comp­fight

  1. Your daugh­ters aren’t beau­ti­ful enough to fea­ture in sto­ries nor to grace the cov­ers of YA books.
  2. The inter­est­ing sto­ries don’t include girls who don’t fit the cook­ie cut­ter mold.
  3. Pub­lish­ers and authors don’t care enough about “the rest of us” to make the effort at pro­vid­ing last­ing lit­er­a­ture that is inclu­sive.  (By the rest of us, I mean short girls, chub­by girls, Asian girls, Black girls…)
  4. Some­thing must be done about this.
Ethiopia

Steve Evans via Comp­fight

What’s worse is that when grouped togeth­er none of these cov­ers stands out as unique or inter­est­ing.  Is this a reflec­tion of pub­lish­ing, the writ­ers, or the read­ers?  Per­haps all?  And if so, what the hell is going?  Have we become a nation of dumb drones?

My nine­teen year old, an artist, has said on many occa­sions that she likes “dif­fer­ent” faces.  She means the faces that are slight­ly imbal­anced or that have a unique fea­ture.  I couldn’t agree with her more.

The thing that both­ers me most how­ev­er, is not the mes­sage these cov­ers send me, but the mes­sage it may send my eleven year old, and any girl her age or old­er for that mat­ter.  She  is at a most pre­car­i­ous age where her read­ing lev­el has far sur­passed her lev­el of matu­ri­ty and sophis­ti­ca­tion.  The sub­tle and not so sub­tle mes­sages these monot­o­nous cov­ers sends is dan­ger­ous and down­right inju­ri­ous to her sense of self.  If the cov­ers can poten­tial­ly do such dam­age, then how could I even trust the con­tent?  If the cov­ers are all essen­tial­ly the same, can’t I make that same judge­ment about the con­tent of the book itself?

The cov­ers, I sup­pose, have their place as part of the whole.  But these PWG cov­ers don’t appear to be part of the whole, but instead pret­ty much the whole she­bang.  I know that I am not sup­posed to but, I judge books by their cov­ers.  And since pub­lish­ing obvi­ous­ly feels that they can make more sales with the PWG on the cov­er, then appar­ent­ly most of Amer­i­ca does too.

These aren’t the kinds of girls walk­ing the halls of your local high school.  The girls at the local high school aren’t all 102 lbs with glossy red ringlets and flaw­less alabaster skin.  Put the girl from the local high school on the cov­er of a YA book and that is the first step toward con­vinc­ing me to crack the cov­er to see what the book is about.

Check out these post on the same top­ic:

Why the Pret­ty White Girl YA Book Cov­er Trend Needs to End

White Folks Star in 90% of 2011’s Young Adult Book Cov­ers

Ain’t That a Shame and Race and Book Cov­ers: Why is There a White Girl on the Cov­er of This Book About a Black Girl? — Updat­ed

Uncov­er­ing YA Book Cov­ers 2011