Around the time The Everybody Club came out last spring, Linda moved to a new home. In the process of packing, she discovered a treasure trove of her daughter’s writings about the club that was the inspiration for our book. Here, directly from Carissa, is the Everybody Club’s motto:
I love that Carissa included the word “learn” in this motto. What a powerful word that is! It suggests growth, openness, positive change.
In the process of making The Everybody Club, Linda and I learned a lot. We learned that there can be many solutions to the same problem. We learned that sometimes we had to let things go. We learned that patience is essential. But the most important lesson we learned had to do with the book’s cover.
Almost as soon as the book came out, we realized we’d made a mistake. The white characters were much more prominent than the characters of color—which didn’t represent the theme of the book at all. The excitement of launching The Everybody Club was replaced with a heartsick feeling that stayed with me for weeks.
Also, the three white characters in the center of the book represented real people to us. The girl in the center was Carissa, Linda’s daughter, the voice of the book. The boy in the wheelchair was Phil, Linda’s son. The girl in the scarf was Lydia, a friend’s daughter who died of cancer when she was nine years old. We were seeing these characters differently than readers would.
I’m sure that decision fatigue also played a part. We went through so, so many revisions of The Everybody Club, feeling our way through the process—not only with creating the book itself but also with the byzantine maze of independent publishing.
But if I had done one simple thing, we could have avoided this situation. If I had made a conscious decision to see the cover through the eyes of our readers, all of our readers, I would have seen at a glance that the white faces formed an unbroken arc in the center of the cover, and that’s what the eye was drawn to.
I didn’t make that conscious decision, though. I took for granted that I could trust my instincts. In other words…white privilege.
White privilege says that a white person can assume that the world is a certain way, that this view is the norm, and that anything else can be measured against it. But, of course, this assumption is unfair, hurtful, and not rooted in reality. White privilege is a distorted lens. I knew that, and I should have consciously, intentionally, mindfully chosen a different lens. I didn’t.
Linda and I decided that it was necessary to replace the cover. We wanted to feel good about The Everybody Club, to have a clear conscience and to know in our hearts that we had put in our best effort. It hasn’t been easy. While Yana Zybina, the illustrator, readily agreed to make a new cover illustration, scheduling conflicts and illness caused many delays. Then we faced myriad challenges uploading the revised files to IngramSpark and KDP.
But we did it. Here, at long last, is our new cover.
I’m sharing our learning experience in the hope that it will do someone, somewhere, some good. We can all learn from each other, whether we are sharing our triumphs or our mistakes.
Carissa got it right: Include Everyone, Learn, and You’ll Have Fun.
is a children's book author, editor, tutor, mom of two young adults and one feisty cat, and collector of weird things.
My Reading Corps Service
Letters for Kids
A Blue Ribbon Day
A Kind Neighbor, a Beaded Tree