If I Ever Do This, Kill Me


As you already know, I have a problem with censorship. A friend of mine who has a number of children – including several teenagers – called the other day and asked me what censorware to buy for their kid’s computer. Net Nanny vs. ??? My answer was simple: none. Just like the locks on your house, censorware is there to make you feel good – not provide any real protection. If somebody wants in, they can get in. If your teen wants to surf porn, there isn’t much you can do about it. The way to stop this behavior is to teach them what is acceptable and create a trusted atmosphere where there is some adult supervision. In the end, my friend moved the kid’s computer to the living room. There was a great article on BoingBoing yesterday entitled, Teach kids to be safe on the net by getting them to think critically about censorware, that covers the topic very nicely.

LiarHowever, that’s not the real topic of the day. I read several accounts of Young Adult author Justine Larbalestier’s new novel Liar yesterday. More specifically, the author is livid about cover of the book shown here. Why? Well, the book is about a black girl, but the cover features a white girl. Again, you may ask why? Here are Ms. Larbalestier’s own words:

“This cover did not happen in isolation. Every year at every publishing house, intentionally and unintentionally, there are white-washed covers. Since I’ve told publishing friends how upset I am with my Liar cover, I have been hearing anecdotes from every single house about how hard it is to push through covers with people of colour on them. Editors have told me that their sales departments say black covers don’t sell. Sales reps have told me that many of their accounts won’t take books with black covers. Booksellers have told me that they can’t give away YAs with black covers. Authors have told me that their books with black covers are frequently not shelved in the same part of the library as other YA–they’re exiled to the Urban Fiction section–and many bookshops simply don’t stock them at all….” The full article can be found here.

In my opinion, the publisher stepped over the line here, and maybe we will see an apology showing up on the net – similar to Amazon’s backpedaling apology on deleting Orwell’s titles. Ironic that the title of the book is Liar, eh? However, it does make a strong case for why small presses need to exist – to provide options for readers who don’t want white-washed covers and content. I can see hundreds of niche publishers filling those topics that just don’t fit into the mainstream publishing plans. So, while I feel bad for Ms. Larbalestier this might be a wakeup call for the industry. Even if that isn’t the case, if I ever do this to an author – kill me. You have my permission.

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