Appearances can be Miss reading

The Penguin Black Classics cover for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Penguin Black Classics cover for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I’ve said it before myself in Sexist by design and Don’t judge this book by its cover: publishers dumb-down book covers when the author is female or when they assume the primary audience is. Men miss out on reading books they’d enjoy, women writers are patronised and the reading public is mislead. In some cases, men who write about women lose half their audience thanks to the ‘feminine’ packaging of their work.

When Flaubert and Tolstoy wrote of unhappy, adulterous wives who shopped too much, it was Serious Literature about the human condition. When women write of such things, it’s Chick Lit. Some writing is indeed light entertainment only, but we shouldn’t assume that everything written by women is trivial, and publishers shouldn’t assume that women readers only ever want triviality.

 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charlene Dickens

If Charles Dickens had been a woman … This is the kind of cover I think publishers would give Charlene Dickens for a reissue of A Tale of Two Cities.

Maureen Johnson is an author who’s had enough. She is inviting readers to give book covers a gender flip. I suggest taking Ian McEwan’s The Child in Time and giving it a pink hearts-and-flowers chocolate box treatment, or putting a war-time nurse wreathed in flowers on the cover of Atonement. Or how about Tolstoy’s War and Peace with a dewy-eyed girl waiting for her soldier in a cloying floral sitting room?

Some readers have already submitted gender-flipping covers. See the gallery in the Huffington Post.

My contribution here is A Tale of Two Cities reinterpreted as Chick Lit.

© JD Ellevsen

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