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Friday, February 19, 2010

Cover Cravings #4: Asian Characters

A weekly feature on my blog where I post up cover images that fit a weekly theme - art styles, artists, colour schemes, etc. In essence, this is a meme that celebrates book covers as pieces of art. Covers link to larger images and titles to goodreads summaries.

This week's theme: Asian Characters
There's been some controversy I've witnessed regarding a few books that feature works by Asian authors or include Asian content, but don't actually portray anything culturally Asian on its covers. Either that, or they portray them in a "stereotypical" light. I have a little rant coming up where I discuss these issues of representation, but for now, here are some covers I've found featuring East Asian faces (the ones I identify more with) in a variety of contexts.


Green by Jay Lake, art: Dan Dos Santos
Earthseed/Farseed by Pamela Sargent, art: Dan Dos Santos
Indigara by Tanith Lee, art: Dan Dos Santos

Warchild by Karin Lowachee, art: Matt Stawicki
Truancy: Origins by Isamu Fukui, art: Scott M. Fischer
China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh, art: ??
Wicked City: Black Guard by Hideyuki Kikuchi, art: Christian McGrath

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan | Walking Boy by Lydia Kwa
Nothing but the Truth by Justina Chen Headley | On the Prowl (anthology)

Your Suggestions

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, suggested by: Ah Yuan
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, suggested by: Ah Yuan
The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander, suggested by: Alma Alexander
The Embers of Heaven by Alma Alexander, suggested by: Alma Alexander

Red Mandarin Dress/The Mao Case/Death of a Red Heroine/Loyal Character Dancer
by Qiu Xiaolong
, suggested by: V

My Thoughts

It's rather sad to note that out of all the photographed covers, only one of the characters shows their full face. Oh sure there's lots of face-cutting on covers in general, but there's also a lot of full-face (and in fact almost full-body) shots as well, especially for women in urban fantasy. Interestingly, according to comments on this review for Flash Burnout, people disliked the cover and could not imagine Blake to be "Asian". Having yet to read the book myself, I can't confirm or deny if the character of Blake is actually Asian or not, but I personally think the guy is rather handsome |D
Have you guys found any covers with non-stereotypical Asian characters? Photographic covers with a full Asian face? Please leave your opinions/discoveries in the comments =)

You may have noticed I've put up a new tag called asian pride. I'll be tagging all posts I make in the future about Asian media with this label, just because I do try to go out of my way to find and promote them =)

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in which a girl reads said...

Ooh, I really like this meme!

And yay for Asian pride!

But that's a really troubling observation that none of them are showing their full face. *sigh*

And I really like the cover of FLASH BURNOUT, it really stood out :)

yuan said...

You know, I was going to name A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park but then I stared at the cover and suspect that it might be illustrated... (Illustrated really realistically, but still.) There are side profiles like the paperback version of Book of a Thousand Days, or those faded photograph faces to blend with the background ala paperback version of Swan Kingdom (The other version of A Single Shard, Mountain Girl River Girl by Ting-Xing Ye and An Ocean Apart, a World Away,) but yeah, besides these examples, I literally cannot think of a single cover with a full photographed face. Or, I guess you only get a full face if you're a Geisha and some white dude wrote a fictional tale appropriating and exotifying these women and it got turned into a really crappy movie that I wish I could wipe its memory from my mind forever. [/sarcasm]

The commentors just can't handle the hot-ness of an Asian guy. The men in Chuno woiuld probably be too revolutionary for them. mmmmmm Jang-Hyuk mmmmmmm ♥

Get cracking on your post! lol

Alma Alexander said...

It was marketed as mainstream but I can't help that - in my head they're both historical fantasies - go look at the bibliography page at and check out the "secrets of Jin Shei" and "Embers of heaven" covers for examples of Asian characters on covers...

V said...

This is a great idea! Thanks for posting about this. It's a shame there aren't any more covers, and that I can't think of any non-stereotyped ones off the top of my head.

I've just borrowed "The Mao Case", by Qiu Xiaolong (an Inspector Chen novel), which has this cover: It's a beautiful image of an (East Asian?) lady staring directly at the viewer and shows most of her body. A shame though about the tag line at the top of the cover!

ninefly said...

@ choco
I've been debating whether I should be so forward with my asian pride, but all the negligence of covers and representation has just spurred me on lol
Flash Burnout only caught my eye because of the asian model, I'm hoping Blake is asian lol

@ ah yuan
ah, the distinction is hard to draw because some artists are indeed TOO GOOD lol
hmm, I'll just group them all together and let you decide which ones are photographs and which ones not then =P
*ignores horrible geisha book*
lol you will never stop pushing Chuno will you? [/rhetorical]

@ alma
hmm, none of the covers have full asian faces either...oh wait, the Jinshei hardcover does, mostly!
thanks for bringing these to my attention! =)

@ V
oh, this is a great example, thanks for the heads up =)
yeah, too bad about the tagline, but I doubt the author came up with that anyway lol

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I am curious about Green. I can't remember if it is a part of a series or not. But I think I am going to have to get that one. And Prowl looks great. I want to get a few anthologies that has a few stories in them I am looking for and I think Prowl is one of them.

This is a great group of books!

Misty said...

I love the cover for Green, and all of the covers in the 'your suggestions' section. I think the cover-cutting and having models canted off to the side is getting more and more common because it makes for visual interest. I've never noticed whether it's done more so in non-white covers; I'm going to start paying attention now. Great post!

ninefly said...

@ Melissa
I'm not sure if Green will turn out as "stereotypical", but that word itself is quite problematic (I'm writing up a whole rant about this soon)
wish you luck on Prowl! I've been trying to get into the Asian werewolf detective series by Eileen Wilks

@ Misty
Perhaps it's because of the sheer amount of white people on covers, even their lesser categories (covers w/ faces) seem much more abundant than non-whites. A lot of with-face covers I've seen have usually been adult paranormal romance/urban fantasy females w/ leather pants lol
Thanks for dropping by!