Cover judgment: Clever or offensive?
The magazine -- which posted the cover image, as it does every week, on its own website -- dedicates an issue annually to African American publishing. But something about the picture and the phrasing got on people's nerves. A sample of the complaints:
The Root, a website focused on black perspectives, tweeted: "Let's be clear: Picture = Pretty Cool. Cover context = Entirely less stupendous." And "Straight up, this could've flown as a GREAT cover. On Ebony. In 1976."
Senior editor Calvin Reid, who did not respond to Jacket Copy's request for comment (which, unfortunately, arrived after hours New York time), wrote on Twitter that since the magazine picks recommended books in the issue, going to picks -- as in picks for Afros -- seemed like a funny leap. Publishers Weekly later tweeted, "I admit that I love afro picks! In the 1970s I had many just like them also stuck in my massive afro."
African Americans on covers -- or not -- has been a big issue this
fall. In this Sunday's Off the Shelf, Lizzie Skurnick
looked at the dust-up over Justine Larbalestier's "Liar." Although it features an African American protagonist, the original cover design featured the face of a Caucasian girl instead, and such whitewashing had antecedents in young adult fiction.
As publishing struggles to reach readers, we aren't sure what to think of this cover. Is it funny and winking? Or does its use of "Afro" with the image of Black Power picks strike the wrong note?
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Image of PW cover via Harper Studio