I almost didn't post this. I wasn't going to get involved in the issue, because for me, it is a non-issue. Several books that have been written about characters of color have had covers depicting the character with a lighter skin tones that the character being portrayed. I don't often use the word color, I prefer differences of culture or cultural diversity. It's how I think, but I digress. First of all, unless you a very well known author or an extremely powerful one, very little input is allowed in cover art design. Don't be upset with the author, they have little control, even if they protest the cover art, it's the publisher who makes the final decision. The publisher basically puts together a cover that they think will sell, even if they're wrong. They're in a business that wants to make money, we just receive pleasure from that business, much like movies, TV, or CDs; it's all about the entertainment value, escapism at its best. If you don't like what a publisher, producer, executive is doing, let them know. I always do. Eventually, they'll get the message.
I've read books written about a Victorian era where the cover art is misleading, depicted another place or another time. Characters who are not slender, slenderized. And yes, characters who are culturally diverse, portrayed with light skin tones. I always ask myself why? I hate it when the cover art is misleading. But that being said, it's the story inside the covers that captivates me. I can ignore the cover, in fact I usually do. I don't really see the cover while I'm reading because I don't care about the cover, it's the story I need. I'm always surprised when I finish a book and close it to see that cover doesn't look like the picture I've created, but it's my creation that sticks with me, not the publisher's cover. Covers are important and I wish publishers were more careful with their depictions. But it's not the deciding factor for me.
I do tend to see the characters in my mind's eye, very visual as a reader. And not just the characters, but the world the author creates. You see, for me it's not just letters on a page forming words into sentences that will eventually tell you a story. I have to become one with the story, live with the characters, feel their emotions, and become part of the story that I'm reading or telling.
I've read many books with diverse characters, and when the character is uniquely described, I find myself living as I rarely see myself, being diverse within the character. But, unless the author takes the time to point out these diverse characteristics, and unless it's important to the characters frame of mind and sometimes they're not, the reader doesn't have a frame of reference. We end up seeing the character as we see ourselves, which is our own reference point, no matter the culture. We may find out through the story's telling and adjust our images as needed, but isn't that what we're doing throughout the story, realizing the characters? When developing a character who has skin tones described as "a warm shade of creamed coffee", I become one with the warm creamed coffee shade the author has described. If they're "as pure as the driven snow", I become one with the pure as snow. If it's a raven haired beauty, it's raven hair for me too. Am I anything of these things in everyday life? Probably not. For me, it's all about becoming one with the characters. Can I live and breath with the characters, are they someone I'd like to be or want to be friends with, are they so evil that I want to cry out, are they redeemable, can I fall in love with them, do I want to or will my heart be shredded by these characters? These are the questions I find myself asking when I'm first starting to turn the pages of an unknown author or book.
I guess it's the reader that makes the difference, because I can become one with an alien race, far far away from our Earth bound constraints, hair like tentacles, three eyed, spell casting, well over six foot tall, fingers that have razor sharp tips, fangs that blossom from bloodless gums, or bones that pop, shift, change into a wild creature that runs with the pack and hunts for the glory of the feed. Reading is fantasy for me, all reading, not just "fantasy" books, because it's our imagination that lets the character come to life and bloom within our souls. I romanticize characters, even if it's not strictly a romance. Isn't it all about fantasizing? I've become a notorious dancer, a beaten down slave on a ship longing for revenge, a pilot rocketing through space, a blood drinker and a creature of the night. I've run with the pack, I've had dalliances with lovers, I've let myself live through the plague and many hardships. I've even sailed a ship with Captain Jack Sparrow, Long John Silver, scurvy and all. It's about leaving my world I live in everyday behind and being something I'm not. I guess it's the adventurer in me, the fantasizer, the imaginer, the storyteller. It's not that I have a bad life either, I like my life, I love and am loved, which is all that really important in this life. Material things are just that, material things easily disposed of, lives and loves are not.
I didn't start blogging to judge and be judged. I started blogging because I wanted to share my love of the printed word, whether if it's in a printed page or digitally reproduced; whether I've had to spend my dollars or if I've received it and asked for a review. It's because I love to read, to discover new authors, to tell stories as I've seen them and even then, one person's picture of the story may not be the same as mine. They may even quarrel me, disagree venomously. Does that bother me? Hell no!!! It provides me with another opportunity to see the story through someone else's eyes. I freaking love that!! It's awesome!!
I try extremely hard never to be derogatory towards an author, they've poured their life blood into a book, it's their dream of what a story should be. And not all books are going to be my cuppa. But that's okay too. Someone loved it or it wouldn't have become published, even if it was just the author and they've self published. I've discovered books that were self published and wondered why a publisher didn't pick it up. I've read books from well known authors that have been acclaimed and wondered why. But it's all good for me, it makes reading fun, and for me, as long as I have breathe in my body, it will be fun. I grew up in a diverse community, so I guess I've always seen past things like color; I don't see a color, I see a person with hopes and dreams, and don't we all share those? I hope I've raised my children to be just like me, strong willed, willful even, determined to make their own way, and with the ability to live, love, and enjoy life.
Many may not approve of what I say or even like it, but that's okay too. We're all entitled to our own opinions. When we can't accept another's opinion and see it as we'd like our own opinion seen, then it's saddens me. I've seen bloggers put down, ripped to shreds on some sites, so I feel like I'm taking a big chance here. I want those bloggers to realize that they've done nothing wrong, except express themselves. In humble my opinion, life is a learning and growing process that doesn't end until it's over. I've never met a person who knows it all and if they think they do, I feel sorrow for them. Life wouldn't be worth living if we were all born if the innate knowledge of a lifetime. What would be the point? No one wants to be ridiculed, and I'm striving not to be. Please don't be mad at me for who I am, but if you do, I understand. I'm not everyone's cuppa either.
Well, that's my two cents, my wandering ramblings, worth only what they appear to be. I hope that everyone has a great weekend.
((((Hugs)))) to all my buddies throughout and within the blogosphere, and to even those who aren't.