UPDATE: In the wake of backlash over their proposed “Diversity Edition” line, Barnes & Noble is suspending the release and has canceled a promotional event, which was to be held at its flagship store in Manhattan.
Here’s the official statement that Barnes & Noble tweeted:
The original news story lies below.
The canon of classic literature is dominated by stories of white people written by white people. So to celebrate Black History Month, Penguin Random House and Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue is trying to
change that make easy money by republishing classics like Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, The Secret Garden and Emma with new covers that present the main characters as people of color.
They changed the books’ covers as if that papers over years of systemic racism in academia, literature, and publishing or modifies the history and contents of these books. Instead of promoting the great literary works of people of color, Barnes & Noble is using images of people of color to peddle books by white writers. The rancid cherry on top of this sh*t sundae: Barnes & Noble is calling this collection the “Diverse Editions.”
Yeah. Let that sink in.
AM New York reports each title within the Diverse Editions will have “five culturally diverse custom covers,” so consumers can pick what Romeo, Juliet, Alice, Dr. Jekyll, Peter Pan, and even Frankenstein look like—as opposed to doing that based on the text or their own imaginations.
Something tells me Barnes & Noble won’t be thrilled with the response their Diverse Editions recieved on Twitter:
What in the Caucasian— roxane gay (@rgay) February 5, 2020
Barnes & Noble was like, well if Netflix can change the thumbnail to show the Black extra in the background of a show they want you to watch…— Bethany C. Morrow (@BCMorrow) February 5, 2020
The Secret Garden is a book that hinges on the premise that Mary Lennox is a peevish white girl born and raised in India by colonialist British parents.— Hanna Alkaf (@yesitshanna) February 5, 2020
I can’t say for sure but it looks like on this cover they made Mary Lennox…Asian. https://t.co/wmEgWZjRRV
ok my favorite thing about this one is that it looks like how a white person would draw an evil Indian person in 1886 pic.twitter.com/TmuU8jYzob— Babu Prit (Preeti Chhibber) (@runwithskizzers) February 5, 2020
So, they're not retellings by poc and their #OwnVoices? They're just new covers? So instead of paying poc to write new fresh stories, they're hornswoggling people into paying for the same old stories with covers that are heavily stereotyped & have nothing to do with the content?— Mercedes Siler is Sad and Busy as Hell (@MercedesSiler) February 5, 2020
Promote diverse authors, and stop perpetuating the idea that these "classics" are necessary and required towards becoming well read. Giving Dorothy ruby Jordans DOES NOT CHANGE THE WORDS INSIDE THE BOOK?????— KJ (@KendraJames_) February 5, 2020
Y'all…you can't just… Find & Replace race.— LL McKinney (@ElleOnWords) February 5, 2020
That's not how this works…
All I'm saying is they missed an opportunity here. This is Fifth Avenue. As in NYC. As in … the Harlem Renaissance? Instead of redoing classics by white authors, promote authors like:— Sammie (@srbetler) February 5, 2020
✨ Langston Hughes
✨ Zora Neale Hurston
✨ Claude McKay
✨ Jean Toomer
✨ Sterling A. Brown https://t.co/eMgVabhgaf
Some great books featuring POC authors and characters:— BeeCassiopeia (@Phoebe_Jung) February 5, 2020
• On the Come Up
• The Hate U Give
• An Ember in the Ashes
• God of Jade and Shadow
• The Bride Test
• Little Fire Everywhere
• The Wrath & the Dawn
• Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secret of the Universe
Support non-white authors.— NotEye (@NotEye_) February 5, 2020
Here’s a list you can start with: https://t.co/3YWPBOoApn
Header Image Source: AM New York