According to a text from the United States Postal Service, my July OwlCrate arrived today. Inside that cute little box lives some bookish goodies and a book. The book this month is My Plain Jane, which is a
fantasy/paranormal turned on its head retelling of Jane Eyre. Let it be known that I hate Jane Eyre. I know the lovers of Jane Eyre are a passionate bunch, and I’m usually tolerant of differing opinions, but not where this book is concerned. I can’t even take Jane Eyre seriously, so I can’t really take any defenses of it seriously. I’m aware that we’re fighting, but I’m hoping one day we can forgive one another because sooner or later we’ll be fighting about Wuthering Heights. I’ll say one thing, those Brontë sisters really did dig awful men and weak women.
My! That was quite a digression. My point was really to say that OwlCrate has only sent out one contemporary novel this year—From Twinkle with Love. It was also the brownest book they sent out this year. While they may support the need for diverse books in their videos, they have yet to show that diversity in the boxes they curate. I hate to throw around terms like implicit bias, but . . .
In a year where books by authors of color and featuring protagonists of color has been higher than ever, OwlCrate has been a noticeably absent participant in pushing these books to the forefront. Let’s say that a lack of diversity in book choices was my only issue with OwlCrate, but we all know that isn’t true. I talked months ago about how it was turning away from a subscription box that allowed readers to explore different genres into one that was specifically targeting the YA fantasy lovers. Those YA fantasy lovers are a vocal group and the collective sound of their voices has shaped the 2018 book release landscape. As a result, OwlCrate’s selections this year have been obvious. So, obvious that I guarantee the August book will be Grace & Fury. In case you were wondering, Grace & Fury is a fantasy, and the cover features two women who are not at all racially diverse. Like I said, the selections are obvious because they are pandering.
There were plenty of opportunities for OwlCrate to continue pandering to the YA fantasy community and commit to diversity in their book selections. Let me say again, in their book selections and not simply the kitschy tchotchkes they include to beef up the box. Some of the top YA fantasy releases this year were—Dread Nation, The Belles, and Children of Blood and Bone . . . Not one of these books made OwlCrate's cut, but all of these books were written by authors of color and included protagonists of color. Although, there will be a Belles inspired item in the August Box. Should I give them credit for that? I'm not. I won't.
It's true, I'm certainly tired of the fantasy, but I'm absolutely tired of and appalled by the underrepresentation.
At some point, I'll have to put my money where my indignation is, but right now I really want that item inspired by The Belles. And it better not be a freaking candle. You know, in a year when Joss Whedon, whose brand of woke-ness is about a decade outdated, is revamping Buffy with a slayer of color, I expect the OwlCrate curators to ditch the mirror from time to time and select books with protagonists and authors who instead open some windows and doors.
I doubt that you could tell from this post but I’m looking forward to reading My Plain Jane. Maybe the authors have written Jane as the powerful symbol of female empowerment that academics have claimed for all these years.