Reading challenge: Characters of color on covers

In my little corner of the internet there has been a resurgence of the argument that people of color aren’t put on book covers because it adversely effects the sales of the book. And because America (I can’t speak for the world) really isn’t a post-race culture, no matter how much some people would like to argue that it is, there is unfortunately probably some truth to this argument. And it will likely remain so until the day it isn’t. I don’t have the answers to how we get there, but I do know that, as a reader, buying, reading and reviewing books with characters of color on the covers is a step in the direction of proving to publishers that they are as safe a bet as anything else.

Unfortunately, I’m not rich. I can’t run out and buy all the books. (How I wish I could buy all the books!) What I can do is make a point of reading and reviewing book I already happen to own that have non-white characters on the front. Below is the list of such books. It doesn’t include anything I’ve already read or that I request from the library (though I’ll add the latter to the challenge retroactively, along with any I find that I’ve missed).

Now, the choice of these books was problematic in as many ways as you can imagine. For one, I simply scrolled through my Goodreads bookshelves and took from them the books that had obviously non-white characters. I’m sure I missed some. I’m sure that if I’d marked other versions of some books not included, they might have been included, and conversely wouldn’t have included some I did. What to do with images that were clearly meant to be from one culture, but the model was white? Does it count if the book is a biography and the publisher had no choice but to put the person on the cover of their own book, or if the book is set in a largely homogenous time/country, like feudal Japan. What if it is a picture of an often objectified and exotified group, like Geisha? What if I strongly suspect the actual text will turn out to be a White Savior story, or problematic in some other fashion? And lastly, I had to make a visual judgement, sometimes on nothing more than a shadowed, headless torso. I just plain  might have gotten some wrong. When in doubt, I chose to be more inclusive than less. I took the same route when faced with characters of color in obviously secondary position on a cover. Hopefully, it’s the intent that counts here.

There are 78 books in that list (I’ll put links at the end of this post) and, while that might seem like a lot, it is pulled from a very large pool. I own a lot of unread books. Many of them don’t have people on the front at all, but of those that do, they are largely white people. So, no special props for me because I happen to own 78 books I’m simultaneously saying are comparatively rare.

This first challenge post really isn’t anything more than a reference point for myself and a chance to invite others to both join me and discuss the idea. What do you think, small drop in a big pond but worthwhile, performative, interested in joining me?


Links:

Trapped on Draconica
Incoming Alert
The Good Negress
Would it Be Okay to Love You?
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
The Dragon’s Passion
Underworld: Sex, Drugs, and a Loaded Gun
The End of Eden
The Dark Horse of Shanghai
Project SNOW  —-  Review
Degranon
From the Ashes
Shatterproof  —  Review
Prince Charming Wanted (Indian Maidens Bust Loose)
Alpha Moon
Khe
Purgatory Reign
Strength to Let Go
The Girl With Two Names
The Brotherhood of Merlin —–  Review.
From Far Away To Very Close: Seda’s Story
Keeping Score
Empress Orchid
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection
Hotsuka’s Story
The Art of Three
Dreaming on an Arabian Carpet
I Love It Rough
I Like ‘Em Pretty
Tiger Lily
Halcyon: The Complete Steampunk Trilogy
The Burning Sky
Kiss Me to Spring Time
Human Property Hanging in the Family Tree Yields a Harvest
I Got You
More Than Words
The Beast of Callaire
The Powers of Callaire
Melokai —-   Review
Lost in Space
Of Beasts and Bonds
Moonlight   —  Review
Between the Lies
Psycho Save Us
Their Eyes Were Watching God
New Leaf
Third Vampire Shadows
The Drowning King
Earthrise .  —   Review
The Turnarounders and The Arbuckle Rescue
The Disassembled Life of Duncan Cole
M.C. Higgins, the Great
Black Like Me
Infinite Hope
Crimes of the Heart
To the Edge of the Sky
World Whisperer
The Handoff
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea
The Orphan Fleet
The Reluctant Sacrifice  Review

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
A Woman’s Nails
Stranded with the Navy SEAL
Anytime Soon
Almost Black
Schoolgirl Apocalypse
Exiled, Malcom
Black Beauty
Shadow Unit 1
Boss
Girl in the Glass
The Geisha and The Monk
Fall of Sky City
Carolina Daemonic
Hope in the Hood
Blood Awakening

Added to the challenge:

From Scratch —  Review
Tangled
Tender Secrets
Shadowshaper — Review
Drunk on Men
The Glass Admiral  —  Review
Black Gold
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula — Review
Dhata Mays — Review
A Princess in theoryReview — Review
The Black God’s Drums Review

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