Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An Open Letter to Borders and Barnes & Noble

Dear Borders, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores,

My name is Amy and I'm a book blogger. I write a book blog that covers a variety of literature, including young adult books. As a book blogger, I spend a considerable amount of time reading about books and also reading books.

Despite the fact that this is a huge part of my life and takes up a significant chunk of my free time, I still love to go into your bookstores and look around. When I do, I almost always end up leaving with a book or two. Sometimes these will be books I read about on other book blogs, and sometimes they will be books I spotted for the first time in your store. What I'm trying to say is that impulsive book buying is alive and well. Furthermore, whether or not your store chooses to stock a book will have a great impact on the sales of the book.

It recently came to my attention that your stores either did not carry or carried in very limited quantities, Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix. The hardback edition of Silver Phoenix is gorgeous and should appeal to any fan of fantasy. But it's not just Silver Phoenix you didn't carry. You also didn't carry The Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. And there are other books that feature people of color on the cover your stores haven't carried.

HarperCollins believes in Silver Phoenix. They believe the story is one many people will want to read. But you've put them in a hard place and so they're resorting to changing the cover, whitewashing the cover, in order to make another attempt to reach readers with this book.

You did that. That's not really something to be proud of. We read to both find ourselves in books and to better understand others. We need books with characters of color on the cover--proudly displayed in our bookstores.

We need a revolution in the way we think about book buying. We (all of us who care about books and their role in our society) need to remember that what we do speaks into our culture, we send messages and reaffirm behavior with our choices. We need to remember that this is a diverse world and that every man, woman, and child deserves to read books with characters that feature people who look like them.

But even setting all of that aside, what I'm really asking you to do is to give all books a fair chance to be discovered in that casual stroll down the bookstore aisle. I'm asking you to please carry books because they are good books. I'm asking you to choose to carry books that have people of color on the covers. I'm asking you to help us make progressive steps rather than cowering in the past of untested buying trends.

You hurt not only the author, not only the publishing house, not only an entire race of people, but everyone who loves good books when you do otherwise.

Finally, I'm asking that you might consider making reparations. Here are a few ideas:

*Let HarperCollins know you'd be interested in carrying a paperback version of Silver Phoenix with the original cover.
*Buy books for the upcoming season that have people of color on the cover for your bookstore
*Highlight books with characters of color in your newsletters, on your website, by displaying them face-out in your bookstores. Read them. Encourage your employees to read them, so they can effectively handsell them.
*Read Reading in Color. Learn about the great books out there that feature characters of color. Ari does an amazing job of covering YA books and issues. Her blog could be a very valuable resource for your store.
*Do NOT separate books by African Americans or with African Americans out from other books. Please put these books in their proper classifications (i.e romance, general fiction, etc.) so that all readers can discover them.

Thank you for your time. If you have any questions, need clarification, or would like to discuss this issue further, I can be reached at I look forward to seeing the great things your store will do.



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