Call me old fashioned, but I love fairy tale tropes. And after reading Luce’s post on the evolution of Sleeping Beauty’s narrative, it got me thinking about a certain trope that’s been a part of many of my favorite stories. When we speak of names, we tend to make only the base association between the word and the object. People think of me when they say my name, and Beyoncé when they think of her name, but neither of us would lose any of our intrinsic value if we happened to be named something different. Even one of the most famous lines concerning names—“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”—seems to deny the importance of names altogether. Yet fairy tales have argued that names are indeed important, and now even modern day fiction has joined in the crusade.
So it’s hard enough to find a positive portrayal of persons of color in novels, as I’ve mentioned before, but what do you do once you’ve actually got a minority character? Well, the next step is usually to make a book cover featuring the protagonist… even if the protagonist is a person of color. And that’s where it gets tricky.