So much for us being a post-racial society, at least where young adult books are concerned. In ranking the literal colors of YA covers in 2011, blogger Kate Hart discovered something more disturbing: When it comes to skin color, 90% of last year’s YA books featured white models.
Like I said, Hart’s experiment started out tongue-in-cheek, separating over 600 mainstream book covers over a traditional color wheel. But when it came to counting minority representation, she turned to what she calls “the gatekeepers,” or indie/self-published titles. And it’s not pretty.
Hart also breaks down specific covers by race, like this study in all the ways that black cover models are obscured or even beheaded:
This, plus all the ridiculous racist tweets about the Hunger Games movie’s casting of Rue, make me worried for the state of YA. Of course, Hart acknowledges that it’s the fault of everyone across the spectrum of publishing, even leveling some blame on herself:
Also: I said this last year in the small print, but some readers missed it, so this year I’m saying it big and bold: I am a big ‘ole hypocrite straight white middle class girl who’s written two unpublished books about straight white middle class girls. But they aren’t the only books I’ll ever write (and I haven’t finished a third since last year’s post). In the meantime, I am trying to be an ally in the best way I know how. Suggestions for improvement are always welcome.
It’s similar to Lena Dunham acknowledging Girls‘ problematic representations of non-white experiences, but Hart shows that she’s trying.
Photo: Kate Hart