This is a post about accountability. I want to begin with a couple of disclaimers. I am not a victim of this situation. The decisions I made caused harm, and it is my responsibility to address that harm. Second, this will be an explanation and an apology to the writing community at wide, but more specifically, to any Black people who were affected by my choices. It is not the place of anyone who is not part of the harmed community to accept my apology. Third, this is a commitment to do better. I always learned that an apology means nothing if behaviors and actions do not change.
Recently, a community member came to me with a concern about the cover art I commissioned for No Safe Haven. They expressed their concerns with clarity and detail.
The cover of No Safe Haven, pictured here for reference, depicts a rather brutal scene from the story in which Tayen wrestles with her rage and violence. I chose this scene because of its pivotal nature within the story; however, I did not consider the context of this cover outside of the story.
Until recently, Black characters have not been frequently featured in cover art. This is especially true in traditional publishing. In more recent years, this has begun to change. Black characters are starting to find their way into cover art. However, those characters are not expressing rage like Tayen is. They are often expressing their emotions in more subtle ways. This has a lot to do with perceptions and stereotypes of Black anger and rage, i.e. the angry Black woman trope.
There are quiet barriers to how authors, artists, and publishers are allowing Black characters to express their emotions for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t my place to step into that space and commission a cover expressing overt rage in ways that Black authors and artists haven’t been allowed to or comfortable doing.
When this community member shared their sentiments with me, I asked questions of my sensitivity reader and people I trust. I should have asked before I put this art out there in the first place. They had a range of reactions to my cover. Some thought Tayen looked ferial or villainous. Some were offended by the portrayal.
Before I continue, I want to make it clear. This community member didn’t demand anything of me, bully me, or do anything but share their concerns. It was an act of kindness and bravery. It couldn’t have been easy. I also want to reiterate that the subject matter was my choice, and the artist is not responsible for my choice.
I am committing to making a change. I reached out to the artist immediately and started a conversation about how we can make adjustments to the cover. The timeline isn’t clear yet, but we will turn out updated cover art.
I had planned to release No Safe Haven as an ebook, paperback, and hardcover on October 24. Instead, I will release the ebook and paperback on October 24 with an updated author’s note to acknowledge my error. Then, when the updated cover art is ready, I will release the hardcover along with an updated ebook and paperback.
To anyone who was hurt or harmed by my choice of subject matter for the cover art, I apologize. When I took on a project exploring issues of white supremacy and colonialism while featuring characters with Black and brown skin, I understood that there was potential for harm. I have done my best to avoid that harm, and I am sorry for the ways I have failed. I will continue to work to improve as both an author and a person. Where I make mistakes, I am committed to remedying them as best as I can.
The last thing I would like to say is thank you to the community member who offered their critical feedback.