5: Remixing Book Covers to Talk About Racism

The Baby-Sitters Club was a YA book series released in 1986 that followed a group of 11-13 year old girls running a babysitting service in a fictional town in Connecticut. In book #56, titled Keep Out, Claudia!, one of the girls, Claudia, who is Asian-American, is denied a job babysitting for a white family. After another girl from the club, who is black, is also rejected as a sitter, the club realizes that the white family is racist.

The incorporation of racism as a theme in a YA novel in the 80’s was very rare, and caught the attention of Phil Yu, a Korean-American who can recall reading the series as a kid and, reflecting on the series as an adult, was completely satisfied with it. Yu appreciated being able to identify with Claudia’s character as a kid, but argued that author Ann M. Martin should have addressed racism in more than one book in the series. In response to his uneasiness, he decided to re-create some of the covers of the series, adding humorous titles that addressed issues of racism more up-front. He started with the cover for Keep Out, Claudia!, where you can see that Yu has changed the title of the cover.

As you can see, Yu changed the title of the book.

Here are a few other examples of Yu’s remixing:

Yu did not just remix these texts in order to make a joke; he transformed them in order to make a statement about racism. The covers depict how Yu was unhappy with the representation of racism in YA literature, and he transformed the covers in order to dramatize this issue. Yu’s remix highlighted both the rhetoric of the series when it was first published and it’s relevance now. In Framing Remix Rhetorically, Edwards says “the rhetorical variations of any typology would benefit from an overarching frame, one that affirms the rhetorical, social, and ethical benefits of composing transformative work” (Edwards 43). In Yu’s case, the remixed covers affirm all three of these elements.

In digital publishing today, remix is used so often to make some sort of social statement like Yu’s. It is not only important, but beneficial for remixers to be able to transform existing media, because it gives them more media to use that will support their cause. Most importantly, it allows people to fix media that needs to be improved upon as social needs change. In Yu’s case, creating dramatic and humorous titles for these rather old books allowed him to reflect on how racism in literature has changed since the series was released.

Word Count: 428

Works Cited:

Edwards, Dustin W. “Framing Remix Rhetorically: Toward A Typology of Transformative Work.” Computers and Composition, JAI, 24 Dec. 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S875546151500095X.
Tseng, Ada. “Remixed Book Covers Imagine a Young Adult Book Series That Confronts Racism.” Public Radio International, PRI, 26 Jan. 2018, www.pri.org/stories/2018-01-24/remixed-book-covers-imagine-young-adult-book-series-confronts-racism.
Yu, Phil. “Claudia and the Baby-Sitters Club Books We Really Needed.” Angry Asian Man, Phil Yu, 29 Nov. 2017, blog.angryasianman.com/2017/11/claudia-and-baby-sitters-club-books-we.html.