Kate Clanchy to rewrite her memoir amid criticism of “racist and ableist tropes”

Kate Clanchy to rewrite her memoir amid criticism of “racist and ableist tropes”

Kate Clanchy is rewriting her critically acclaimed memoir after much criticism of her portrayal of her students, especially children of color and children with autism.

It follows reports that the publisher, Picador, was in discussions to update future editions of the Orwell award-winning book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, after days of online review of passages. offensive, and was criticized for not going far. enough in his initial statement.

Readers and fellow authors had criticized on Goodreads and Twitter for descriptions in the memoir, including the use of racial tropes such as “chocolate skin” and “almond-shaped eyes,” and references to a student as ” African Jonathon ”and another being“ so small and square and afghan with his big nose and premature mustache ”.

Another passage has been highlighted for the inclusion of ableist descriptions, in which Clanchy, a poet and teacher, calls two autistic children “unconsciously strange” and “discordant company,” and writes “probably, more than one. hour a week ”in their company“ would irritate me too, but for that hour I like them very much ”.

Award-winning teenage author Dara McAnulty, who has autism, shared passages and tweeted: “Some people didn’t believe me when I shared some of my education experiences and what the teachers thought of me… We can understand how you really feel about us.

Initially, in a tweet since deleted, Clanchy, 55, from Scotland, said she had been wrongly accused of racism by reviews on Goodreads. She later falsely claimed that the quotes were “all made up” and then the descriptions were taken out of context.

Writers such as Philip Pullman and Amanda Craig have stood up for Clanchy, while writers of color including Chimene Suleyman, Monisha Rajesh and Sunny Singh have criticized his response and the book’s award-winning merit, and have continued to receive accolades. racist slurs on the part of social media. media users.

Suleyman, co-author of the anthology The Good Immigrant USA, tweeted that she was particularly concerned about “the publishing team who didn’t spot it, the awards that celebrated it, and the white authors who did it. defend and invalidate people of color who are upset by this ”.

Clanchy then apologized for “overreacting” to criticism from readers and vowed to rewrite the book, calling the experience “humiliating.” She wrote on Twitter: “I know I got a lot wrong, and I appreciate the chance to write better, with more love. “

In a second statement addressing the public’s anger at their initial lack of response and apology, Picador said: “We realize our response has been too slow. We strongly condemn the despicable online bullying of many who have spoken out. It has no place in our community.

The editor added that he had apologized “deeply for the harm we have caused”.

Clanchy has been teaching in public schools for over 30 years. In 2018, she published an anthology of student poetry and received an MBE for services to literature. In 2020, a panel of independent Orwell Prize judges described her memoir as “moving, funny and vibrant”, offering “a sparkling glimpse into modern British society”, and awarded the book the prize for political writing .

On Tuesday, the Orwell Foundation said that while it does not comment on the individual judging decisions of its jury, it recognizes the “concerns and injuries” expressed about the work.

“The foundation understands the importance of language and encourages open and careful debate about all the work that comes with our awards,” he said. “Everyone should be able to participate in these discussions, on any platform, without fear of abuse. “

Speaking to the BBC, Suleyman said “bridges have been broken in the publishing world” during the incident, adding that there will be “some way to go to rebuild that trust with their writers and readers of color ”.

“Although we are accomplished writers and teachers on structural racism and colonialism,” she said, “Professor Sunny Singh, author Monisha Rajesh and I have become invisible to writers who have approved of this book, speaking only to white authors, while simultaneously expressing disparaging racist opinions. from U.S. “

Rajesh told the BBC she was unsure how the book might be updated given that it was “riddled with racist and ableist tropes throughout”, including several phrases which she said remained “ingrained. in eugenics and phrenology ”.


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