New Children's Fantasy Book Will Test the Multicultural Impact on Children's Literature by President Obama and Disney

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When Monroe S Tarver created a black elf princess for his children's fantasy story in 2002, he never dreamed that by the time he had signed with a publisher and gotten his book published, that Disney would be premiering a movie starring a black princess and the U.S. would have a black president. But the book industry still hasn't embraced diversity--as witnessed in the recent controversy over a publisher's decision to put a fair-skinned face on the cover of a book about a black character. Tarver and his publisher will be testing the marketplace.

The recent controversy over Justine Larbalestier's cover reinforces that skin color still matters in publishing. My publisher and I both felt it was important to place my ethnic elf princess on the cover of my book. We are really going to be testing this.

When Monroe S Tarver first created the elf princess for his children's story, "Imagia and the Magic Pearls" (Wizarding World Press, November 2009), he had never seen a black-skinned fairy or black elf princess before. Tarver was hoping his twist on the traditional classic fantasy image would be acceptable to the general mainstream market in 2009.

Imagine Tarver's surprise when media giant Disney also announced they would premier a black princess for the first time in their 2009 movie, "The Princess and the Frog". That would certainly seem to help, but Tarver still is not sure how it will impact printed works, such as "Imagia and the Magic Pearls," the first book in his "Tales from the Mapmaker" series.

"I am hoping it will open the door wider for me and other authors like me, but the book industry has been just as behind as the movie industry when it comes to the portrayal of ethnic characters," Tarver explained. "The recent controversy over Justine Larbalestier's cover reinforces that skin color still matters in publishing. My publisher and I both felt it was important to place my ethnic elf princess on the cover of my book. We are really going to be testing this."

Book publisher Bloomsbury recently decided to put the image of a long-haired, fair-skinned female on the cover of "Liar," a book about a short-haired black character. Larbalestier, the author, was not happy with the cover. However, her publisher overrode her objections. They felt the long-haired, pale girl would sell best--even though it had nothing to do with the story. Many people are examining the bookshelves and wondering whether the industry is truly responding to public taste, or if it is out of touch with the public and needs a "face lift."

The timing might seem that Tarver's and Disney's projects were inspired by President Barack Obama's success, but both began their work long before his race for the presidency. Therefore, those coincidences are not driven by hype but by a nation that has become truly multicultural. However, there is still the question of whether the book industry is ready for this cultural change.

It is clear that parents have been hoping for this trend for a long time. "I, as a black female, am happy that they are making a black princess film (wish they had one when I was a kid, would have been nice)," posted Kristin Smith on ComingSoon.net. Comments like this one reflect the opinions posted across the Web about a black main character in the upcoming Disney movie.

Monroe S Tarver, an African American, is the author and illustrator of Imagia and the Magic Pearls, an exciting adventure portraying the power of imagination. He attended Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and currently resides in Charlotte, NC. Wizarding World Press is an established name in fantasy, pop culture and children's book publishing. They are best known for their incredibly popular series of Harry Potter fan guides, including the "Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter."

"Tales from the Mapmaker: Imagia and the Magic Pearls" by Monroe S Tarver (Wizarding World Press, November 2009, ISBN 978-0-9723936-5-2, $6.99)

For more information, visit http://www.talesfromthemapmaker.com. To schedule an interview with Monroe S Tarver or receive more information, please contact Amanda C. Willis at amanda(at)prbythebook.com or 512-433-6229. Website: http://www.prbythebook.com

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