The Compulsive Reader: A Defense of the Cover for Magic Under Glass

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Defense of the Cover for Magic Under Glass

Okay, so this may seem a bit redundant to some folks, in which case I apologize, but I just thought I'd throw in my own two cents about the issue of the cover of Jaclyn Dolamore's book, Magic Under Glass.

You can go here to read my review of the book if you are interested.

Here are my original cover comments: This cover is lovely and magical and fills you with breathless anticipation--simply perfect. I love the font, the pose of the model, the hints of magic, everything!

My opinions haven't changed, but due to the fact that Bloomsbury has temporarily ceased to provide copies with the US cover due to complaints (read the full statement here), I thought maybe I should expand a bit more on exactly why I disagree with all of the uproar it has caused.

First off, as I understand it, the issue many readers have with the cover is the girl's skin tone. Unlike the dispute over the cover for Liar by Justine Larbalestier last summer, I do not believe that this issue is as cut and dry. In Liar, we new most certainly that Micah was black, and that a white girl was on the cover. However, with Magic Under Glass, all I remember from the book was Dolamore mentioning that Nimira's skin was darker than most of her fellow character's. Furthermore (and I could be wrong, so feel free to correct me in the comments), but I don't remember seeing any adjective when talking about her skin tone that gave me any indication that she was, most assuredly, very dark, or anything that urged the reader that she couldn't be simply very tan.

In fact, the Nim I pictured was a girl whose skin was very tan, with dark hair. Now, does the model on the cover fit that description? Not exactly. But, she's close--she has dark hair, and in the golden light her skin looks quite tan. And really, we can't expect art designers to get these things exactly right--it's impossible to live up to every reader's expectation or imagined image of a character.

So, no. The picture of the young woman on the cover of Magic Under Glass doesn't exactly fit. But in my opinion, neither does it not fit Neither does the image of the girl on the hardcover of Wherever Nina Lies fit the character of Ellie, or the image of the girl on the cover of Wish fit Olivia. But, they're close. And unless you want to limit book covers to simple graphics, versatile and bland body parts, or stick to the torso trend (which I know for a fact many of you hate), we've got to be a little open-minded and forgiving when it comes to models or people on book covers.

I will be very sad to see the beautiful, luminous cover of Magic Under Glass go. It really was what first attracted me to the book, and I think it will be hard to find a replacement cover that lives up to its beauty. I will be interested in seeing how Bloomsbury responds with the new cover, but in the meantime, I'm keeping my well-loved ARC with the beautiful cover so I can gaze at it further.

UPDATE: Charlotte has given a break-down of physical descriptions, with quotes and page numbers here. After reading this, I still stand firm in my opinions.

UPDATE: For the record, I don't think that a black model on the cover would make it less appealing; I just don't believe that the current model is completely wrong either (see the link in the above update!)


Jackie said...

Charlotte had the breakdown of physical description

andrea said...

While I have not read this book, if the non-specificness of the character description is correct then there is nothing wrong with the cover. On the other hand, while I love her books, there is much wrong with the cover model for CE Murphy's "The Negotiator" series, as that character is clearly described as a beautiful successful black female lawyer (very refreshing). the cover model is beautiful yes, but NOT black.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, your defense makes it sounds as though you think this cover would be less "luminous" or "beautiful" if a woman of color was pictured in the same pose, with the same lighting. And if your impression of the heroine is that she was merely "tan," despite the many descriptors Jackie/Charlotte cited, then the cover did its job: It made you think of a black heroine as a white woman. So the cover ought to go.

The Compulsive Reader said...

I certainly wouldn't think the cover would be less beautiful with a black model; I'm just saying that (and I have not read the link Jackie gave above yet) I don't necessarily see a black woman in my mind's eye after reading Dolamore's descriptions, and since Dolamore doesn't say a specific color or give a definite color-indicating adjective, I don't believe there to be anything majorly wrong with the current cover.

Taschima Cullen said...

I read the book and I agree with The Compulsive Reader.

I AM a woman of color and as I read the book I thought the cover girl fit the "exotic" category. As you read you have to put everything together, not just take "brown" and make it the color brown of Crayola. There are lots of different tones of brown and people should learn to open their minds to the possibilities. It's basic Biology.

I did a similar post a couple of days ago and I am happy to know not everybody hates Bloomsbury now. I think the oil was already on the floor and people just needed an excuse to light up the fire.

Great post.

Jessica said...

I think the issue is that when making a beautiful and luminous cover, the publisher and whomever designed it went immediately to a white model, despite description in the book to the contrary. They had the choice to use whatever stock photo or design whatever they wanted and they made the choice to stray from the character's described dark skin in favor of a picture of a white girl.

I don't think anyone expects the cover designers to get every single detail down, but this is more than just a matter of a red shirt vs a pink shirt, or blue eyes vs brown eyes.

Rebecca Herman said...

My thoughts... I do find the cover pretty, and am happy to have my ARC and HC with the original cover since perhaps it will be rare now. Since the book was set in a fictional world, I was never completely sure what the main character would look like - especially since I am one of those people so pale that anyone looks dark next to me (I don't tan, I roast, haha). So looking at the cover I personally couldn't say how far off it was from what the author imagined - there are so many people of different skin tones around the world and what seems dark and light to people will vary based on where they live - and thus I shrugged and moved on with reading the book. In the end, I didn't see the cover as really problematic, if you aren't then ok, we are all entitled to our own opinion.

Brooke Reviews said...

From the descriptions, it doesn't seem like it's a black girl that is being described, but maybe middle eastern. I think the cover is beautiful, and it's a shame bloggers have jumped all over it like this.

Great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

Sara said...

I love the cover of MAGIC and don't have a problem with it at all... especially since I did not picture Nimira as black, just darker skinned - which I think the cover depicts. The cover of a novel *might* make me pick it up, but it isn't what makes me decide to read it. I fear that they really will have to go back to the torso covers... there has been too much controversy. If a novel clearly states that the main character is black, or hispanic, or islamic, or white - show that on the cover... Otherwise, don't have any skin showing - it just causes too many issues. :( I judge a book by its content - not its cover.

AnimeGirl said...

I have not read the book but I think it's a perfectly lovely cover and after reading Nim's description in Charlotte's blog, I found it ambiguous enough to fit the girl on the cover somewhat.

Covers are just covers, and the people who do them do an approximation of something they think will fit the story and make it eye catching enough so that you'll pick them up. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they miss it completely.

C'est la vie.

In this case I don't think they missed completely.

Furthermore, you can't put that much weight on a cover as to make it more important than the content of the book, that's just too book snobby for words, especially without any truly specific description as far as I see, so far.


valentina said...

It's undeniable that the author meant Nimira to be dark-skinned. Not black, but dark yes. In her words she said that her culture might be drawn from from Eastern European, Asian and Roma cultures. If you watch the trailer of the book you can see how the author actually imagined her.
The cover doesn't reflect that. It's not about being tanned. It's about belonging to a different ethnicity, albeit a fantastical one.
If I picked up the cover without knowing this, I'd think that Nimira was a white woman. And so would many other people.
That's when it becomes an issue. Publishers chose not to feature a clearly darker skinned woman (not just tanned!) and it wasn't their first time. Hence the outrage.
No matter how pretty the cover was, I'm glad it will be changed.
It's just another small step toward multicultural inclusion and visibility which is still not a reality in the book industry, and especially in fantasy fiction.
That's why it mattered so much.

Melanie said...

I haven't read this book yet, but I did read Charlotte's post, and I didn't really see anything that would make me think of the heroine as black. I'm part Filipina, and I have dark shiny hair and brown skin. Like Taschima said, there's a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to brown.

DeNiSe MaDnEsS said...

I agree with you 100% to me she doesn't look "white" skinned I only just started reading the book and i could imagine Nimira her like the girl on the cover
and not all middle eastern are dark skin some have a light tone I hope they don't change the cover