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Book Cover of the Award-Winning Book THE POET X Plagiarized

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Mya Nunnally

Staff Writer

Having loved books since the age of four, Mya is a writer and poet who looks to explore the complexities of life through language. They attend Barnard College of Columbia University with their kitten, Ramen. Their reviews of independent literature can be found at Foreword Reviews. When they aren't writing or reading, they're playing video games with strong female characters. Twitter: @literallymya Blog:

If you keep up with bookish news (or any news) at all, you probably have seen the gorgeous cover of Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. It was everywhere, from bookstore shelves to social media to tote bags, especially as the book won award after award. The National Book Award, the Printz Award, the Pura Belpré Award, and more. And it truly is beautiful, featuring bits of words and poetry overlayed over a stunning face.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo cover

But it turns out the face (and the photo from which it came) belongs to a talented photographer named Amanda. It does not in fact belong to the artist who designed it at HarperCollins, Gabriel Moreno. In a disturbing turn of events, we learned that a book about the importance of Afro-Latinx voices had a cover which stole the voice of a real life Afro-Latinx artist.

A friend alerted Amanda to the startling resemblance between her and the book cover, which led the artist to tweet at Epic Reads, HarperCollins’s young adult fiction blog site, on June 30th.

the poet x book cover plagiarized

“@EpicReads The artist you talked about in this article committed plagiarism. This is not his original drawing. It is a photo manipulation/traced sketch of my image. Of my face. Please discredit him.”

While the connection is obvious in the above image, the plagiarism got completely indefensible once another user tweeted a gif of Amanda’s image fading into the book cover. Once you watch this, there’s no way the artist did not blatantly steal Amanda’s image.

Epic Reads responded to Amanda in earnest, giving me hope that the situation will be resolved soon. (They are calling her Opal because that was her Twitter name at the time. However, now her Twitter name is Amanda not Opal, so I’m referring to her as that.)

Screenshot from this tweet

Author Elizabeth Acevedo, who is not to blame as she most likely had no knowledge of this plagiarism whatsoever, also reached out to Amanda, expressing sincere remorse. Kudos to Acevedo for immediately trying to help out.

elizabeth acevedo

“Hey, Opal. Thank you for bringing your photo to my attention and I’m so sorry for this situation. Please know I had no knowledge of your image prior to tonight and would never agree to using someone’s likeness without their permission. I have contacted my publisher and am awaiting more information. I want to make sure we rectify this ASAP. Can you DM your best email address?”

The blame certainly does rest with artist Gabriel Moreno, who—as far as I know—has not addressed these allegations. He certainly told many people it was his own work, most notably in an article from EpicReads (that has since been deleted).

Screenshot from this tweet

On July 2, Amanda tweeted that “seeing my face on tote bags, on fan art, on peoples book reviews. Is so bittersweet. I always imagined my work being everywhere, but not like this. Not without anyone knowing it’s me, not without being credited. I worked hard to get my camera gear, my following, it makes me sick.” I can’t even imagine how she feels.

Wondering if there’s anything you can do? Follow Amanda on Twitter, especially on her photography account, and remember to support up and coming artists whenever you can. I’m sure this isn’t the first time a big name tried to steal a lesser known artist’s work.

I can only hope that Amanda gets some significant compensation for her work. This book’s cover has been everywhere due to the acclaim awarded to the book itself. And we say don’t judge a book by its cover, but a lot of us do it anyway. I know I’m guilty here. How many of The Poet X‘s buyers might not have thought to try out this amazing, groundbreaking novel if it had a different, less eye-catching cover? We may never know. What I do know is that Amanda deserves recognition, compensation, and a huge goddamn apology.