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Russian publisher is no longer “whitewashing” Rick Riordan’s jacket illustration character Carter, an African American boy who has been depicted as white on the covers of various foreign language editions of Riordan’s young adult series.

Carter’s skin is “dark brown”, like his Egyptologist father, he tells readers in the first pages of The Red Pyramid. His sister Sadie’s is much lighter, as she takes after their mother, who was white. “Carter, you’re getting older. You’re an African American man. People will judge you more harshly, and so you must always look impeccable,” his father tells him.

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Riordan’s foreign publishers in countries including Russia, Italy and the Netherlands have featured cover images of Carter as a white boy. “Pretty art but I’m not amused how they whitewash Carter,” wrote Riordan of the Italian jacket last year.

The Dutch publisher subsequently listened to Riordan’s concerns, the author said, and revised the covers “so that Carter Kane actually looks African American rather than whitewashed”.His Russian publisher has now followed suit, prompting Riordan to write last week: “Thank you to my Russian publisher EKSMO for listening to my concerns. They have fixed the Kane Chronicles covers so Carter is no longer whitewashed. This art will be featured on any future reprints.”

Riordan  writer for the Percy Jackson series, is one of the world’s richest authors.With the exception of the US and UK, Riordan don’t even see the covers until they are published.

Alexandra Strick, manager and co-founder of Inclusive Minds, which campaigns for diversity in children’s books, said the issue of “whitewashing” was “still a very major problem in children’s books”.

“There have been many high-profile cases of characters actually changing colour completely, so described in the story as black but then appearing Caucasian on the cover. However, very often it’s more subtle than that, with the cover of a book about a non-white character often avoiding featuring a human face at all, or with the character featured in silhouette or even with their face turned away. Sometimes it’s a case of publishers asking that a character is ‘less dark’ almost as though mixed race is acceptable but somehow black skin isn’t.”


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