Disability on Covers with Angel Reads

Posted April 20, 2017 by Ely in Disability Diaries, Discussions / 4 Comments

I have a super exciting post for you all today. If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that I am super passionate about disability representation in books. I’m writing my Honours thesis on the topic right now, and I would have gone mad if it were not for one of my best friends, Angel. She’s amazing and listens to me rant and all sorts. So today, the two of us have come together to talk about the covers of a few disability books.

We’re splitting this post into two parts, so if you haven’t already please go check out Angel’s blog—Angel Reads, for more.

I’m going to pass over to Angel so she can introduce herself a little before we get onto the covers themselves.

Hey, everyone! So as Ely said, I’m Angel and I come from Angel Reads. I’ve been in and out of the hospital since I was about 3 years old when I was diagnosed with NF Type 1 or Neurofibromatosis. And while this hasn’t been my biggest challenged it was the first. When I was 13/14 my chronic pain started and I was eventually diagnosed with Trigeminal neuralgia and that is still with me today. Because of all this, I am very active in trying to promote disability in YA because I think it’s both important and representation is key.

As you can probably imagine, Angel and I love to have very long discussions about disability and how very little representation it gets in YA and in the wider media. Anyway, let’s get onto the covers!

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley

I don’t know whether someone who just picked up this book would see the tiny nod to disability on the front cover. For those of you who might not have noticed, the little girl’s foot is turned slightly in—she has a club foot, which is what I was born with. If you’d like to read more about it, you can see the post I did here about my experiences. What I’ve learnt from preparing this post is that it’s very rare to see disability represented at all on covers, but I wish that there was more to this one. What do you think Angel?

I love this cover for many reasons. 1. It’s beautiful and 2. Like you said there is that little nod that if you don’t look carefully you might miss. It’s so small, but then again so powerful in a way. But as it’s so small like you said it’s easily missed and yes there could totally be a stronger image that will pack more of a punch.

Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum

I don’t know how I feel about this one—when I first saw it, it reminded me of a Roald Dahl book but if you look closely, you can see that the one guy is having his hand cut off. It seems more gruesome to me rather than a representation of disability, but how do you feel about it, Angel?

I don’t like this one at all. The image of cutting a hand off – it doesn’t right disability to me, it feels like a horror movie. The faces of the people also just freak me out and instead of showing disability in a positive light, it’s shown as a horrible thing. It’s so poorly represented here.

I completely agree. I’ve heard positive things about the book, and I know the author has done a lot of work with disability which is why I’m so put off by the cover. I know authors get no say, but surely someone in the publishing company thought to themselves ‘this probably isn’t okay’.

Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

Honestly, when I see this cover I don’t think disability at all. It’s the story of a girl who thinks if she doesn’t touch another’s skin then her dad will come home. It reminds me more of a historical than anything else, but it does make sense for the context of the book. I think it would have been more interesting if the hands were placed differently somehow. The back of the neck just seems like an awkward place to me. Do you agree, Angel?

Again I have to agree with you here. Disability doesn’t come to my mind when I see this cover at all and if I didn’t know what the book was about, it wouldn’t click. Yes, I think it’s the gloves. But I wouldn’t get rid of them because they are so important to the novel. Yes! The neck is very awkward, especially as the hands are delicately placed. What would you think would be better for this novel?

I have the image of like two hands reaching out towards each other but not touching. I know that’s pretty cliche, but it would actually suit this book. Any thoughts on that?

That would totally work and if one hand had the glove, it would work so well. Or maybe if there is something in between the hands like it’s stopping them from touching.

I like that idea a lot. Maybe publishers should ask us before they design disability covers, hey?

So Angel, what do you think makes a good disability cover?

A good representation. I know that is hard to come by, but something that doesn’t brush past the disability would be amazing. I also know that sometimes disabilities are hard to put in an image, especially if concerning a mental illness. But, something that can spark a thought or be powerful would be amazing.

I think we can both agree that we are sorely lacking good disability representation on covers. And for the rest of you, I hope this post has made you think a little bit about the covers you’re looking at on Goodreads.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Angel. It’s always great to talk about disability with you!

Thank you for having me. It’s always great to talk about disability in YA, especially with you. I cannot wait to do it more.

Well, that’s it for this post. If you haven’t already, have a look at our previous post—The Milk Book Tea Tag, and follow us on our brand new Pinterest.

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4 responses to “Disability on Covers with Angel Reads

    Thank you guys so much for writing this – unrepresentative covers are one of my main bugbears when it comes to disability lit, and it’s really cool to see them talked about.

    I’m loving the subtlety of that first cover more and more each time I look at it, but the rep is also difficult to spot … I guess these kind of covers are a tricky balance to strike. At least the cover designer attempted it, though – it really irritates me when the disability in a book is just flat-out ignored on a cover. Again.