The Disgusting Whitewashing of YA Books

High school librarian and writer Annie Schutte has written a really damning post about young adult book covers and the publishing industry: “If a YA book features a white, female protagonist (and this accounts for a not insignificant portion of YA released each year), it seems inevitable that the book cover will display an idealized and airbrushed masterpiece of her on the cover. And when a YA book actually does have a protagonist of color, too often one of three things seems to happen: 1.) The cover is “whitewashed” and shows a Caucasian model instead of a person of color; 2.) The cover depicts someone whose race seems purposefully ambiguous or difficult to discern; 3.) The character is shown in silhouette.”

The examples she showcases are infuriating.  The comments are really enlightening, especially one from a writer named Abby McDonald. Her upcoming book features a biracial protagonist. Initial cover designs featured “a lot of silhouettes, and figures in the distance: ambiguous ethnicities, and photoshopping of Caucasian models.” She was nervous to push back but did,  and ultimately “we were able to find a great photo with an African-American girl on it — and her face, no less!”

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3 Comments / Post A Comment

kellyography (#250)

I read a lot of YA, and I’m generally less interested in a book if it features a photo of any person on the cover. I prefer to see graphics, illustrations, etc. – design rather than photography. And I’m ostensibly a photographer. So, yeah. Two cents.

selenana (#673)

I agree that photo covers turn me off and it’s an annoying trend. But this is so horrible and shocking! Also this should be crossposted to the Hairpin, their commentariat would have a million things to say about this.

Renleigh (#2,110)

I just wanted to chime in and mention that the book shown above (Liar) is a really good book, and they went with the cover on the right after using the cover on the left for the ARCs and the author rightfully objected and posted about it on the internet, drawing attention to the fact that given the content of the book (it’s unsurprisingly about a compulsive liar), having the cover art contradict how the protagonist describes herself could have a significant impact on how people interpret the book.

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