Publishers Weekly received an onslaught of criticism by way of Twitter in regards to their latest cover. The image called ‘Pickin’, 1999, by Lauren Kelley was taken from a new book called Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present to illustrate the annual feature on African-American book publishing. The photograph is of a black woman whose hair is basically a large Afro pick halo including the classic fisted handle reminiscent of the black power movement of the seventies.
“We don’t get the ‘Afro Picks!’ cover. It’s not hip, cute, or appealing.” This is one opinion shared on Twitter; another tweet said: “It seems like a big mistake,” and another read, “what exactly is the rationale behind the Afro-picks cover?” “This is a ridiculous cover. An afro with lotso picks. Get it?” “Publishers Weekly what were you thinking?” According to Publishers Weekly, by early afternoon on Monday, Twitter was swarming with comments about the cover illustration and few of the comments were complimentary.
The cover line for the image reads Afro Picks! New Books and Trends in African-American Publishing, referring to the feature story “African-American Books in Today’s Marketplace,” a look at the current marketplace for black books written by Felicia Pride. The clever pairing of title and image is a common practice for all periodicals as is the use of controversy for the sake of generating increased attention and revenue. We are all entitled to our opinions, and the question of taste is subjective. Ultimately, it all boils down to an issue of intention, or is it trust?
In response to the disapproval, PW Editorial Director Brian Kenney said “My apologies to anyone who was offended by our cover—that certainly wasn’t our intent. At the same time, I’m delighted that Publishers Weekly was able to draw so much attention to Lauren Kelley’s powerful photograph, Deborah Willis’s wonderful book, and especially Felicia Pride’s absolutely terrific feature on African-American book publishing.”
The use of these types of images brings up a number of questions, concerns and debates. Rather than go numb – or go off half-cocked – it sounds as if some thoughtful comments were twittered putting PW in question as to its objectives. It’s a matter of cause and effect when perceivably questionable images of black people are displayed by a white owned media sources – and the war rages on….
Clutchettes & Gents, what’s your take on thangs?