America's largest bookseller, Barnes & Noble recently announced that they would pull a campaign that involved redesigning of the covers of classic novels with images of the ethnically diverse protagonist. However, in a recent statement, the bookseller said that it has 'decided to suspend the initiative' and cancel the event as they faced a considerable amount of backlash.
The effort, titled 'Diverse Editions' was a part of Black History Month partnership with Penguin Random House and the bookseller had decided to sell the reimagined books at its Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York City. According to international media reports, the project saw 12 classic young adult novels receive new covers, the protagonists now 'culturally diverse'.
However, several writers reportedly said that it does nothing to address the publishing industry's underlying diversity problems and further added that simply changing the skin colour of characters is a 'superficial fix' and that the publishing industry should do more to promote writers of colour.
Us: Hey, it’d be great if you could publish writers of color—— Brit Bennett (@britrbennett) February 5, 2020
Publishing industry: Black Frankenstein https://t.co/QF3iWmfvBK
Brownwashing the covers of all-white stories by all-white authors is not the answer. People of colour aren't going to see themselves reflected in any of these stories - unless you count racist caricatures. Invest in marketing & promoting books by authors of colour instead. https://t.co/PWAcOvCl0p— Sister Outrider (@ClaireShrugged) February 5, 2020
After facing furious backlash, Barnes & Noble took to Twitter to announce the suspension of their initiative. In a statement, they said, “We acknowledge the voices who have expressed concerns about the Diverse Editions project at our Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue store and have decided to suspend the initiative. The covers are not a substitute for black voices or writers of colour, whose work and voices deserve to be heard.”
The statement further read, “It was a project inspired by our work with schools and was created in part to raise awareness and discussion during Black History Month, in which Barnes & Noble stores nationally will continue to highlight a wide selection of books to celebrate black history and great literature from writers of colour”.