In the March 5, 2010 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Kate Ward has a feature about the women displayed on the covers of a number of novels featuring female protagonists who are clearly depicted as anything from “curvy” to “plus-size” to obese. Ward draws attention to the fact that despite how the female characters are portrayed in these novels, the cover models are often quite thin.
Now, let me admit up front that I have not read a single one of these books, so I am relying on Ward’s descriptions of their protagonists and how they compare to the cover models. I thus can’t take credit for the content of this post, but thought it was a great topic worth re-posting.
According to Ward, The Wife’s Tale includes a “302-pound protagonist” who does lose weight, but not enough that you’d expect her to look like this:
The woman in this novel is supposed to be “plus-size,” but you wouldn’t know it from the cover:
Also, a book called Take Me with the description “some invitations are too tempting to resist” creeps me out, but maybe that’s just me.
If you can find a size-12 woman who looks like this, let me know [note: be sure and check out the comments, which include a discussion of this and the range of body types that might fit any particular size]:
Or size 14:
Here we have the cover of a novel with a female protagonist nicknamed “Scottish Sausage”:
Uh-huh. How could you see that cover and not know that it was about a larger-sized woman?
Little Earthquakes is about “an overweight chef”:
About the cover of Lilian’s Story Ward says, “These sunken cheeks hardly look like they could be those of Grenville’s obese loner”:
While the woman’s legs on the cover of Jemima J are definitely larger than what we’ve seen on the other novels, “these aren’t the legs of Green’s food addict”:
The cover of a novel with a female protagonist described as “chubby”:
This novel is about a plus-size model:
Though I guess since, in the modeling world, you’re “plus-size” when you’re a 10, perhaps that one isn’t as inaccurate as we might initially think.
And finally, does this look like a “big-boned” woman to you?
[Comments from the feature, "Got a Plus-Size Heroine? Use a Skinny Cover Model!" on p. 92 of the March 5 issue.]
UPDATE: Reader Leslie says,
This reminds me of a book I read as a kid, called Jennifer Murdley’s Toad. It was a pretty good book, and the protagonist was an overweight, ugly kid (with a magical toad). It was about inner beauty, self-acceptance, blah blah blah. But the scene on the cover of the book was the one where the toad briefly changes Jennifer into a cute blonde.
Also, commenters Per and Sarah point out how many of the novel covers show women as disembodied parts or with their faces covered. Even those with faces showing are turned away or shadowed.
Other posts about books: how to make an Asian book cover, evolution of the Dungeons and Dragons playbook, and do bookstores segregate books with African Americans on the cover?