Publisher revises cover for Justine Larbalestier's Liar following storm of protest about 'whitewashing' book
Alison Flood in the guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 August 2009
Larbalestier's new novel, Liar, is about a short-haired black girl called Micah, but the advance reading copies sent out by Bloomsbury Children's Books used a photograph of a long-haired white girl on its jacket, prompting a wave of criticism. "It's bad enough to misrepresent the character in other ways, but changing the race on the cover of the book just seems wrong," blogged a librarian. "I am appropriately stricken. And outraged, nauseous, flabbergasted ... I wish I could say I can't imagine what they were thinking, but in fact I do have a guess. I just can't imagine why they thought no one would notice," wrote a children's book editor.
"I was very upset. Both my agent and I requested that it be changed," said Larbalestier, who was flooded with messages of support after laying out her concerns about the cover on her blog. "Are the big publishing houses really only in the business of selling books to white people?" she wrote. "That's not a very sustainable model if true."
Bloomsbury has now bowed to the pressure and will publish the hardback of Liar this October featuring a black girl. The publisher told US trade magazine Publishers Weekly that it regretted that its "original creative direction for Liar – which was intended to symbolically reflect the narrator's complex psychological makeup – has been interpreted by some as a calculated decision to mask the character's ethnicity". Australian publication – with a text-focused jacket – is also lined up for October, but UK rights in Liar have not yet sold.