I just want to be clear that though I did insist Magnus be cast as an actor of Asian descent, another studio could have shut me out of the [casting] process entirely. I was looking at old emails about casting and I found one of mine that just said this: “MAGNUS IS ASIAN. HE NEEDS TO BE PLAYED BY AN ASIAN ACTOR. PERIOD.”
It’s heartbreaking to see people angered or upset that Magnus is being played by an Asian actor when Magnus is Asian.
About the CLOCKWORK PRINCE cover
As for Jem, I insisted from the start with Infernal Devices that each cover would feature one of the three main characters — Jem, Will, and Tessa. When the time came to do the cover of Clockwork Prince, I said I only wanted to see Asian models for the boy on the cover. I was only sent sheets of Asian models, and I picked one who was LA-based because that’s close to where Cliff, the cover artist, works.
I think the cover that resulted was very beautiful — Jem is gorgeous, and I’ve had parents come up to me and say “My son is biracial and this is the only book cover I have that represents someone who looks like him.” So that is a wonderful thing to hear. And I am also so happy that in the banner that Simon and Schuster produced to represent the Shadowhunter series, that Jem’s is one of the faces depicted.
Whiteness in literature
I can only speculate that because whiteness is so socially privileged, and to see characters of color on the page is so much rarer than it should be, that white becomes the default in reader’s minds. The assumption is that characters are white unless it is explicitly stated otherwise.
When only a small percent of YA novels have major characters of color and less than one percent have characters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender maybe it isn’t so surprising that the default in reader’s minds is white and straight. I think the first thing has to change before the second thing can.
White middle-class Americans are not the only people who read and I believe publishing is starting to understand that, too.
SOUND OFF in the comments. What do you think of racebending and would you wish to have more diversity in (YA) novels?