When I did a presentation at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati last fall, one of the people at the museum said jokingly, “The women here were wondering if the man on the cover of my novel,Â The Disappearing Man, was going to come along with me.”
Sadly, I had to inform them that I did not know the man appearing on the cover; he was a model, and the image was purchased from one of the stock photo houses. So they had to settle for me, and I’m afraid I’m not nearly as buff.
The Disappearing Man and The Vanishing Woman covers were both designed by Mona Gambetta, who did an excellent job. In choosing the image for The Disappearing Man, she used the shadows to express the loss of identity suffered by African Americans in slavery, for our face is our primary external form of identity, and Henry Brown’s face disappears into shadow. This image also brings out the theme of “disappearing” for Henry Brown’s escape in 1849 was the ultimate disappearing act.
Because the cover for The Disappearing Man emphasized black, it made sense to emphasize white on the cover of The Vanishing Woman–but not just because that gives us a nice companion pair of books–one black, the other white. Having the woman vanish into the white background plays with the idea that Ellen Craft, the heroine of The Vanishing Woman, escaped slavery by hiding behind her “whiteness.” In her 1848 escape, Ellen disguised herself as a white man, and her husband William pretended to be her slave as they made their way from Georgia to Pennsylvania.
I also like the way the green-tinted glasses, an iconic symbol of Ellen’s escape, pops from the cover.
By Doug Peterson