Nnedi Okofaror is outraged by what publishers decided to do with the main character of her new novel.
Find ten differences between the two covers below. It isn’t hard to do, is it? In a series of tweets Nnedi Okorafor reveals what happened to the cover of her 2007 afro-futurist YA novel.
The Shadow Speaker tells the story of a 15-year-old girl who has to travel across the Sahara to find her father’s killer in the year 2070. The original cover proposed by publisher Hyperion shows a young woman with explicitly European features walking in the desert. The problem is that Okorafor’s protagonist is a Nigerian Muslim, and is described as “Black-skinned.”
“As a Black woman writing a Black female main character in a sci-fi novel,” Okorafor tweets, “seeing my character whitewashed on the cover felt-like-erasure [sic].” The author says she “threw a sh*t fit (tapered by my agent)” to have the cover changed to reflect Ejii’s ethnic identity.
Unfortunately whitewashing in literature or movie scenarios is a part of present day America’s reality. It is sad to acknowledge that such intolerance toward Black characters is a reflection of the xenophobia and the inability of white people to sympathise with someone different from them.