Bad idea of the year: celebrating Black History Month by changing the pigmentation of characters on book covers

This is really bizarre, and makes one wonder what people are thinking in the New York publishing industry. What’s clear is that several outfits wanted to go with the Zeitgeist of diversity, and so tried to make a literary gesture during Black History Month. (My own gesture, which is completely coincidental, is working my way through the better known works of James Baldwin, an effort that’s introduced me to some great essays and literature.) But according to the article below from The New Republic (click on screenshot, and read a similar article in the the Guardian), a publisher, bookseller, and advertising agency conspired in about the most hamhanded way possible to promote diversity:

Apparently three players were involved: Penguin Random House (my own publisher), Barnes and Noble, the nation’s largest bookseller, and the advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. They decided to celebrate Black History Month by issuing a series of “Diverse Editions” on Tuesday. Their intentions might have been good—although of course the bottom line is always in mind—but the execution was, shall we say, not optimal. Here’s what this collaboration produced:

Yes, the same old classics written by white authors, but with the covers changed so that the characters were now represented as black. Even Dr. Frankenstein’s monster has gained pigmentation and an Afro!

As the Guardian notes,

The new “Diverse Editions” series was announced on Tuesday to honor Black History Month and due to hit shelves on Wednesday. The project saw 12 classic young adult novels receive new covers, the protagonists now “culturally diverse”. Frankenstein’s monster has brown skin, not green, while a kissing Romeo and Juliet have darker skin tones and kinky hair textures. “For the first time ever, all parents will be able to pick up a book and see themselves in a story,” the company explains on the back cover of the books.

But of course what was inside the covers was just the same.  How did this happen? Someone decided to use artificial intelligence to find texts from the Western canon that didn’t talk much about ethnicity, thus (again from the Guardian):

The decision of which book covers to redesign was made using artificial intelligence to analyze the text from 100 of the most famous titles in western literature, searching the texts to “see if it omitted the ethnicity of primary characters”. The 12 classics found to meet this criteria were: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Moby Dick, Emma, The Secret Garden, Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo, Frankenstein, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, The Three Musketeers, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Romeo and Juliet. Apparently the idea was that if a book didn’t mention ethnicity, it would be okay to play around with ethnicity on the book covers. And that, in turn, might somehow empower readers into thinking that the characters could be black (note that Frankenstein’s monster is even given an Afro!).

But a good editor who had actually read these books would note that some of them aren’t “deracialized” novels. Take Moby-Dick. Remember Queequeg, the South Pacific harpooner, the native American harpooner Tashtego, the Parsi harpooner Fedallah, and the black harpooner Daggoo? And, according to the New Republic, “The Secret Garden, as Slate’s Rachelle Hampton wrote, is “a book about a child of British colonialists who considers Indians subhuman” (I haven’t read that book.)

At any rate, after one racial-justice organization called this effort “literary blackface” (I agree), and social media got to work, the books were immediately withdrawn, Barnes & Noble issued an apology (below), and Penguin Random House announced that it’s donating $10,000 to a foundation that works with black authors. The publisher will also conduct, according to the Guardian, “a Twitter donation campaign, giving a dollar to Hurston Wright each time someone tweets the hashtag #BlackStoriesHavePower. I just made my contribution (see below), and will try to raise at least $5 today. (I’m up to three now.)

I’m not much for social-media mobs, but the publisher, bookseller, and ad agency do deserve to be called out for a gesture that was mushbrained, meaningless, and even insulting. Since they already know they screwed up and have apologized, the best response now is just to tweet with the appropriate hashtag, something that really will advance black writing through donations.

The apology:

Readers might want to do something like this:

If you’re on Twitter, I’d suggest you mention some works of black literature you’ve liked, and then use that hashtag. It could raise a lot of dosh!

h/t: Bryan

62 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    PCC(E) wrote about Michael Jordan the other day – and then I found this yesterday: https://youtu.be/UTWvhpd6Qpo

    … Obama giving Jordan the Presidential Medal Of Freedom.

    The suggestion to tw337 about good writers is well taken. I shall.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      … I hasten to add : History need not *remain* history. I’d propose Black Future Month, … perhaps…

  2. Stephen Mynett
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I wonder how they will show a picture of Uncle Tom, he of the Cabin, considering many see him as a symbol of selling out to the whites.

  3. Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I want to highlight a self-published memoir by an African-American woman: “Missing Frames”, by “Scooter.” She suffers TWO traumatic brain injuries, must pursue a lawsuit against a grocery chain, and deal with schizophrenia in her partner while they try to build a house on land in California. This memoir needs more attention.

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      If you’re on Twitter, you should tweet that with a short blurb and of course the hashtag.

  4. JezGrove
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Good grief – what on earth were they thinking? And what do the books selected even have to do with history, let alone Black history?

  5. aburstein
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    The question I would like to see answered is who’s idea was this? Were black executives at this company part of this decision making process? And if so, isn’t the right thing to do (according to woke ideology) to be listening to those marginalized voices as to how they prefer to be represented?

    I ask this because a similar thing happened regarding a NYU cafeteria which decided to celebrate black history month by serving certain foods associated with the black community. They were vociferously attacked for it, but the decision to do so was made after consulting with black employees at the company. See this article for full details.

    • Stephen Mynett
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      “Were black executives at this company part of this decision making process?”

      Good question. I have experience of things along similar lines. We had a presentation at work on how to work with disabled people, it was an intolerable politically correct and, at times, demeaning lecture. I asked at the end how many disabled people they had consulted putting their stuff together, there was an embarrassed silence.

      On the other hand, I complained about a TV show called the Hairy Bikers (two people who travel the world eating and cooking). They were in India and the words of a local chef were sub-titled despite the fact he spoke fine English. I also noted the strong north east England accents of the Bikers was harder to follow at times.

      The response was very good, it was from the producer who said he was undecided about the use of sub-titles but from personal experience he found the accent from that part of India could be hard to understand. I could not disagree with him as he pointed out he was also from that part of India.

    • sted24
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      “The question I would like to see answered is who’s idea was this?”

      White Women, apparently. Here is the top (14) echelon of Penguin Random House:

      http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/about-us/management/

      Ten White Women (including the CEO), one Black Woman, two White Men, one Brown Man.*

      *In publishing 84% of employees are women. All ID’s made by complexion inspection.

      • Deodand
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Regarding your footnote, that is indeed how you should do it, the Woke have proven time and time again that they fervently believe that character can be derived from skin color.

  6. Eli
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    The problem is that the classics (also called the Western canon) unfortunately do not include much black writing for historical reasons. After all, something is a classic once it has stood the test of time and therefore the classics are usually works of art and literature produced more than a century ago when there weren’t many opportunities for minorities to contribute. But it doesn’t mean that we should not be reading classical books just because they were written by the “pale, old, white men”. After all, as a man in 21st-century America I have about as much in common with a musketeer in 17th-century France as with an aristocratic woman in 19th-century Russia, yet I still enjoyed and found much value in reading Dumas or Tolstoy.

    I guess I just don’t understand people who choose what books to read by the skin color of the characters on the cover.

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      The question is whether there has been great literature by minorities that’s been overlooked. I’d argue that yes, to some extent that’s true. I’ve tweeted four books that are to me the equal of Dumas (though perhaps not Tolstoy), but still great literature that deserves to be taught.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        And both Duma(ses) were black.

        • Eli
          Posted February 7, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          Alexandre Dumas pere had a single black grandmother. It seems a stretch to describe him and his son as black unless you have evidence they considered themselves black. But it is true that some classical writers had African ancestors. For example, Alexander Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet of the 19th century, had a black ancestor in his family tree.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted February 7, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

            I made the comment precisely to see what responses it might provoke, and yours was one that I expected. I’m sure you know that in America, there is (not was) the one-drop rule, so I employed that criterion, not that I personally believe in it, but the Dumas and Pushkin are commonly considered black because of their black ancestry. I’ve met some Russians who deny that and get plenty angry when Pushkin’s African ancestry is brought up, can I go woke and call that whitewashing? Further, many many people in America are classified as black/African American precisely because of the one-drop rule. It hasn’t disappeared because of civil rights. There’s more I could say.

            • sugould
              Posted February 7, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

              At 8% black, I cannot “pass” for black, but my brother could. (Especially to very stupid white people.) I’m figure in some state I could be, on paper, considered black. Our country continues to be obsessed by such matters.

              • Jenny Haniver
                Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

                Indeed, “Our country continues to be obsessed by such matters” and unfortunately, we’re not the first nor the last group to be so obsessed. Interesting that the Nazis used American eugenics and “race science” to form their classifications (as well as using American public relations techniques in their propaganda. The Nazis owe a lot to us in numerous ways.

                I wonder what Homer Plessy would think about all this, and how would he be classified or classify himself? Or Walter White, he of the ironic name, who (after attending a lynching as a white man, while doing research for the NAACP) escaped being lynched himself only because he didn’t have “blue cuticles”, which was supposed to be a fail-safe, indelible mark of the Negro. He lived to tell the tale.
                None of this would have occurred if they hadn’t been classified as Negro; their classification could not be ignored and they were both at the pivotal point. I say that to elide the ethnic ancestry of someone in societies where such stupid considerations matter is only to the benefit of those who would like to say that blacks or any other stigmatized group achieved nothing; that it was all derivative, whether culturally or genetically. And beg pardon, I’m speaking historically and mean no offense, but doesn’t 8% make you officially an octoroon, as they in Dixie would have it? I always thought that was a ridiculous word and classification and bring it up because of its risibility.

              • Doug
                Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

                What race one is seen as belonging to IS partly cultural. If Alexander Dumas were riding a bus in 1950’s Alabama, he would have been told to sit at the back.

        • grasshopper
          Posted February 8, 2020 at 4:54 am | Permalink

          Dumas once responded to a person who disparaged his ancestry :-

          “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted February 8, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            +1 to him. He must also have gotten his rapier-like tongue from his father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (his bi-racial mulatto father). whose astounding,extraordinary life is chronicled in brief in this wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas-Alexandre_Dumas, and chronicled in depth in the completely absorbing and gripping book The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Christo, by Tom Reiss.
            ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Count:_Glory,_Revolution,_Betrayal,_and_the_Real_Count_of_Monte_Cristo. Here’s a link to an interview with Reiss http://johnbatchelorshow.com/podcasts/mon-42015-jbs-author-black-count-glory-revolution-betrayal-and-real-count-monte-cristo-tom

            Should his African ancestry be ignored because he’s only part black and the glory glory credited to his white father, and say, Why mention the his African ancestry or that he was born into slavery? Why racialize it, after all he’s only half-black? Why? Precisely because the default race is white and the African contribution to his ancestry would again be whited out. The same can be said of the explorer, James Beckwourth.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted February 8, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

              An amusing aside that admirably illustrates the idiocy of racial categorization: the father of the film director Michael Schultz was a German American, his mother black. Wiki states that “His parents married in Iowa, shortly before his birth [in 1938] where both were listed as black on their marriage license.” Thus Michael Schultz had two black parents, one of which was white.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Ezra Jack Keats is Polish-American. Just sayin. In case anyone thought about tw337ing The Snowy Day. Not that I did… before checking…. that is…

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    … the better known works of James Baldwin, an effort that’s introduced me to some great essays and literature.

    I’m sure those essays must include the two on race relations combined under the title The Fire Next Time, Baldwin’s most famous non-fiction work. It’s hard to overestimate the impact those essays had at the time they were published — or that they still had about a dozen years later when I first encountered them. Hell, they still have an outsize influence today, possibly even greater than they had then. Baldwin had a voice on the page unlike any other.

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Yes, that was the first Baldwin I read. That’s why I think he is unduly neglected. Not only are his arguments eye-opening for many of us whites, but his prose is fantastic. How many people still read him? In my view, not enough.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Yes, Baldwin is now unduly neglected by the general public, but he is still a major influence on contemporary writers, especially on minority writers.

        • Filippo
          Posted February 7, 2020 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          I contemplate how much the general public neglects.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I think another bit of history about race relations that doesn’t seem to get much attention these days is the famous debate between Baldwin and Buckley in 1965 at Cambridge University. Baldwin dominated, though at the time, I doubt many sided with him; not any conservatives anyway. Looking at the debate now, Buckley is patronizing and supercilious and doesn’t seem to “get” any of Baldwin’s arguments; which by today’s standards are very easy to understand and sympathize with.

      Much of his arguments stem from this most powerful of statements.

      It comes as a great shock, around the age of five, or six, or seven, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you.

      Anyway, for anyone interested.

      • sted24
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for that. Isn’t it amazing that such video documents still exist and are available for free (as it were)!

        The host Norman St John Stevas was, in the UK, a well known figure, often on TV. Like Buckley he was a Catholic and flamboyant. Unlike Buckley he was also gay.

        Everyone knew this. It wasn’t acknowledged in the press but it wasn’t held against him. See both the Guardian and Telegraph obituaries.

        Of course, there are different rules for the upper classes.

        • Mark R.
          Posted February 7, 2020 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it is remarkable to be able to see these historic moments at any time from the comfort of one’s home. Before the internet, I don’t know where one would go to find such footage…maybe a well-stocked library.

          Thanks for the information on Stevas, I didn’t know anything about him.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 8, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

          Of course, there are different rules for the upper classes.

          Pas devant les domestiques!

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    … while a kissing Romeo and Juliet have darker skin tones and kinky hair textures.

    Does that mean there’s also a “Diverse Edition” where Othello’s white, but Desdemona and Iago black? 🙂

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      I have once watched a parody sketch with Othello the only white person. Of course, the idea of the original was discarded.

    • sted24
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      If you go to Amazon.com you will find a couple of recent colour diverse editions of Romeo & Juliet.

      One is a comic book version: black Romeo, white Juliet. Not, the author insists, to make a racial point. But because the story is universal. Maybe, but I think the racial aspect rather obscures the point. Historically, ‘star-crossed’ lovers seem to have been intra-racial, that is, intra-societal. Look no further than the immensely complicated rules of Australian aborigines about who could or could not marry whom.

      The second (Cambridge School Shakespeare) has black Romeo and white Juliet on the cover. Inside–you can look!–you will find theatrical photos of a black Juliet and white Romeo. This the doctrine of colour-blind casting. Although I am not sure if a white Othello and a black Iago and Desdemona has ever (bravely) been attempted.

  10. TJR
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Weird, I always thought blackface was a bad thing, but apparently not. Justin Trudeau must be breathing a sigh of relief.

    Of course there are likely to be fewer famous literary works (in English) by members of minorities, because they are in a minority, by definition.

    Well, one minority, upper/middle class people, is massively over-represented of course.

    The real question is whether we are missing out on great work in translation.

  11. Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Wow. That virtually defines “patronizing.”

    • Deodand
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Back in 2006 the Skeptics Guide to the Universe talked to the (now sadly deceased) person behind the Text Book League website and he discussed many equally patronizing and insulting things like this that resulted from activists choosing to use the most shallow standards (e.g. external appearance) for diversity.

      https://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcasts/episode-52

  12. Roger Lambert
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Do you think there is anything –

    any action, notion, idea, proposition, proposal, interpretation,piece of journalism, work of art, opinion, editorial etc

    – anything at all – that could survive the crucible of today’s social media unscathed?

    Social media’s answer is always a resounding “No” with a side of scorn, a soupcon of snark, and a little less joy in the world.

    I’m not saying this idea about book covers was the best, or worst, in the world. But what if it changed some people’s lives for the better? I guess we’ll never know.

  13. Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Pity Monty Python never came up with this idea. Woulda been a classic!

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      The skit comedy show In living Color did a take on this back in the 90s with Ted Turner’s Colorized Classics.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Do you have a link to that particular skit or the show it was in? I loved In Living Color. Great social satire from a black perspective that spared nobody.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    … some of them aren’t “deracialized” novels. Take Moby-Dick. Remember Queequeg, the South Pacific harpooner, the native American harpooner Tashtego, the Parsi harpooner Fedallah, and the black harpooner Daggoo?

    In one of Philip Roth’s novels, the narrator, an old-time sportswriter name o’ “Smitty,” goes on a fishing trip off Cuba with a fictionalized Ernest Hemingway and a lit-ter-a-toor major from Vassar (whom Papa addresses simply as “Vassar”). The talk aboard the boat eventually turns to the topic of “the Great American Novel” (which also happens to be the title of Roth’s novel). Smitty and “Vassar” take turns naming the usual contenders for the title, as to each of which Hemingway in turn offers a perfunctory critique. When Moby-Dick comes up, the fictional Hemingway dismisses it as a hundred pages of great novel, a hundred pages about how handy darkies are with harpoons, and three hundred pages of whale blubber. 🙂

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      But the question with Moby Dick in this context must surely be how they illustrate the whale…

  15. Carl Morano
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    These books will become valuable collector’s items!

    • Filippo
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      I’m reminded of the misprint in the galleys (or was it the first printing?) of one of Dawkins’s books: the “Large Hardon Collider” instead of the Large Hadron Collicer.

  16. Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “My own gesture, … is working my way through the better known works of James Baldwin,…”

    I would recommend that you watch the debate between Baldwin and William F Buckley at Cambridge in 1965…if you haven’t already. Its on Youtube.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t read all the comments before posting the same comment above.

      I included the Youtube link.

  17. Jon Gallant
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    The executives at Random House and Barnes & Noble who came up with this genius-stroke can no doubt include it in “Diversity Statements” when they apply for positions in the Univ. of California system. BTW, how could they have forgotten to do something about the White privilege enjoyed by the whale in Moby Dick?

  18. Jeff J
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Picturing Dr. Frankenstein deliberately seeking out remains of black people to assemble his “monster…” Yikes, very cringe-y. 😬

    But the Wizard of Oz? I’m sure there have been plenty of kids who have read it and pictured Dorothy as non-white.

    • Paul S
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I picture Diana Ross.

  19. Barney
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Lol Publishers also “celebrate diversity” by making male authors use female pseudonyms

    https://kriswrites.com/2020/01/22/business-musings-power-contracts-negotiation/

  20. Hardrada
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    More like a book-sales minstrel show, except that the proprietors did mean well. Well, they apologized & withdrew the editions. I hope we can all just let it go at that.

  21. Dave
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    One has to admire Ishmael for thinking this of Queequeg after getting over his fear, which he admits is from ignorance:

    “What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself—the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.”

    Melville, Herman. Moby Dick, or, the whale (p. 24). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

  22. Vaal
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    It looks like I’ll be one of the few who do not feel this exercise was that disastrous or a waste.

    It seems it didn’t work for most people and so it’s a misfire. But I get the intentions which are I think good.

    Further, when I look at the covers it doesn’t strike me for a moment that it’s a case of doing “black face.” I’d think that if it were obviously white-looking people whose skin had simply been made dark. But instead this simply looks like black people – black characters – not “white people acting black.”

    I’ve never lived where I wasn’t part of the majority (I’m white) and, aside from traveling, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to grow up in a predominantly white society as, say, a black or Asian person, where everywhere I go the main players depicted are white.

    Looking at those book covers of classics as if they were about black characters instead of white does give a sort of feel for that type of roll-reversal. “Oh, so that’s what it would feel like.” Obviously it’s only a hint at the overall minority experience. But it feels like a valuable hint. At least for me.

    That said, I live in a multicultural city and people of different ethnicity seem pretty well represented in local advertisements etc.
    But since we imbibe a lot of American culture here, certainly most of the movies and books I encountered growing up have featured predominantly white casts.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  23. sted24
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    “JK Rowling has revealed her frustration at online reaction by “a bunch of racists” to news that the role of Hermione will be played by a black actress in the eagerly awaited new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

    The production, which has broken records by selling 175,000 tickets in 24 hours, is tipped to be the theatrical event of the year.”

    Never in all the years of the financial success of the Potter books or films has Rowling ever suggested that Hermione was black. Now, apparently, financially, she is. Here is a bit more:

    “I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione ‘turned white’ – that is, lost colour from her face after a shock – that she must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with.”

    Uh, huh. Is ‘losing colour from one’s face’ an actual thing amongst black people, or is R simply making this up? Here is the article:

    http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/jun/05/harry-potter-jk–rowling-black-hermione

    The comments is where the real fun is.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Maybe she had vitiligo. Definitely possible to go from black to white.

      • sted24
        Posted February 8, 2020 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Of course. But instantly?

        (It is also possible to go from white to brown. It’s called sunbathing.)

    • Adam M.
      Posted February 8, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I don’t have anything against Hermione being portrayed as black in a film, but it’s interesting for J.K. Rowling to imply she was always black.

      Rowling’s own sketch of the main characters depicts her as white. Here’s another sketch she did.

      Here’s a Q&A that goes into more on the question.

      Seems like historical revisionism to me.

  24. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Another entry for the ‘Words I hate’ column:
    Barnes & Noble: “We acknowledge the voices who have expressed concerns…”

    ‘Voices’? What ‘voices’? The voices in their head?

    Or do they by chance mean ‘people’?

    cr

  25. eric
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I have little problem with those book covers. Some of them look really cool just viewing them as cover art.

    I’d say my only possible complaint would be a ‘bait and switch’ one for readers. To use The Secret Garden as an example, I wouldn’t want a young reader to get angry and disillusioned because they picked up the book thinking it would be about a young black girl, only to find it’s about a young snotty white girl who looks down on minorities and poor people.

  26. Adam M.
    Posted February 8, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t seem so different from changing the race of the leading characters in plays from white to black, which is quite common these days. They’re still ‘promoting white literature rather than black literature’. The words of the plays generally remain unchanged. What’s the difference when it’s in book form?

    I think it’s the co-incidence with Black History Month and the perhaps too self-congratulatory way they went about it that put people off. If they slowly put these books out without fanfare, it probably wouldn’t have caused a stink.


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