Thursday, 1 August 2013

by Pang Huey Lynn, Form 5 Science 1, Class of 2013

Have you ever heard of the saying, 'don’t judge a book by its cover'? Try to imagine your favourite book, by your favourite author. What does its cover look like? Is the main character present? Can you see his or her face, or is it left to your own imagination? Is it shrouded with mystery by the use of a symbol, or is it romanticized with soft pastel colours? Now imagine what this book would look like if it was written by an author of the opposite gender. Imagine all the things you can think of when you think of a girl or a boy book. These categories are somewhat sexist, but make no mistake about it, they exist. So what would your favourite book look like, if it had been written by an author of the opposite gender? That is the essence of the Coverflip project.

Award winning author Maureen Johnson had the idea for this contest on the well known social media site, Twitter. She tweeted,"I do wish I had a dime for every email I get that says: 'Please put a non-girly cover on your book so I can read it – signed, a guy.'" The main goal of this project was to expose publishers’ sexist attitudes towards women’s fiction. She used the cover of her own book, The Key To The Golden Firebird as an example. 


The book is about three sisters who are dealing with the sudden death of their father, a plot completely irrelevant to what the cover depicts. She then asked her fans to submit images of new book covers which had been “flipped”. 


Johnson managed to receive many new covers of popular books redesigned by fans from all over the world. The best of these covers were featured on the Huffington Post. The article went on to become one of the most popular articles on the site. To begin with, Jeffrey Eugenides’ best selling book, The Marriage Plot was redesigned from it s original plain wedding ring, to include a bride and a bouquet of flowers.



Stephen King’s horror novel Carrie was redesigned to include a lipsticked, smiling blonde on its cover, completely misleading readers.

Sarah J. Maas’s fantasy novel, Throne of Glass which originally shows a beautiful blonde woman with a dagger sheath on her arm, was altered to show a plain throne made of glass in a morbid looking palace.


Bestselling novelist, Jodi Picoult agreed wholeheartedly with Johnson. Picoult is constantly critiqued for having obligatory romance featured prominently in her books. In reality, just last year she published a book with none. She asks her followers on Twitter, "Why is it 'domestic fiction' if a woman writes about family or relationships, but if a man does that, it's Pulitzer-worthy? … what would happen if a woman submitted a book under male pseudonym to a publisher? Would it be treated any differently?" History has shown us that yes indeed it would be. Take for instance the Brontë sisters , Anne, Emily and Charlotte, first published their works under male pseudonym’s Acton, Ellis and Currer. Without using those names, their works such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall would never have been published.

It is important to remember, that not all publishers are sexist. At least, not on purpose. A publisher’s job is to help sell books so he or she tries to pick a cover which can help sell the book towards a target audience, however shallow that may seem. If we give this issue some thought, the true root of evil in this case is society. People tend to judge your reading taste and capabilities based on covers of the book you are reading, despite the fact they themselves have not read it. I for one used to avoid fluffy, looking books for fear of judgement from others. Ever since Maureen Johnson began the Coverflip campaign I feel more free to pick and read whatever I see fit regardless of its cover, because I know the true value of a book, lies within its pages.

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it."
- James Bryce
by Anonymous 17:59 44 comments | in , , ,

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