Kate Clanchy rewrites her critically acclaimed memoir after widely criticizing her portrayal of her students, especially children of color and autistic children.
It follows reports that after days of online scrutiny over objectionable passages, the editor, Picador, was in discussions about updating future editions of the Orwell Award-winning book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me and was criticized for having it did not go far enough in his first statement.
Readers and fellow writers had been critical of descriptions in the memoir on Goodreads and Twitter, including the use of racial tropes such as “chocolate-colored skin” and “almond-shaped eyes” and references to one student as “African Jonathon” and another “so small.” and angular and Afghan with his big nose and premature mustache ”.
Another passage was highlighted for the inclusion of ableist descriptions where Clanchy, a poet and teacher, described two autistic children as “unconsciously strange” and “harrowing society” and “probably more than an hour a week” in their company “would me.” also irritate, but for this lesson I like them a lot ”.
Award-winning teenage author Dara McAnulty, who is autistic, the passages shared and tweeted: “Some people didn’t believe me when I shared some of my educational experiences and how teachers thought of me … We can understand what you really think of us.”
First, the 55-year-old Clanchy, originally from Scotland, said in a tweet that has since been deleted that she was wrongly accused of racism by reviewers. She later falsely claimed that the quotes were “all made up,” then that the descriptions were taken out of context.
Writers such as Philip Pullman and Amanda Craig defended Clanchy, while color writers including Chimene Suleyman, Monisha Rajesh and Sunny Singh criticized and racially abused their reaction and the book’s award-winning merit.
Suleyman, a co-author of the anthology The Good Immigrant USA, tweeted that she was particularly concerned about “the publishing team that didn’t spot it, the awards that celebrated it, and the white writers who defended it and the colored ones who did there are, void “upset about it”.
Clanchy later apologized for his “overreaction” to critical reader reviews and promised to rewrite the book, calling the whole experience “humiliating”. they wrote on Twitter: “I know that I have done a lot of things wrong and I welcome the chance to write better and more lovingly.”
In a second statement addressing public anger over the initial lack of reaction and apology, Picador said, “We find that our response has been too slow. We strongly condemn the despicable online bullying of those who have spoken out. That has no place in our church. “
The editor added that he “deeply apologizes for the damage we have caused”.
Clunchy has taught in government schools for more than 30 years. In 2018 she published an anthology of student poetry and was awarded an MBE for services to literature. In 2020 an independent Orwell Prize jury described her memoirs as “moving, fun and full of life,” they offer “sparkling glimpses into modern British society,” and awarded the book the Political Writing Prize.
On Tuesday, the Orwell Foundation announced that while they will not comment on each of the judges’ individual judging decisions, they recognize the “concerns and pain” that have been expressed about the work.
“The foundation understands the importance of language and promotes an open and careful debate about all the work that our prizes generate,” says the foundation. “Everyone should be able to participate in these discussions on any platform without fear of abuse.”
Speaking to the BBC, Suleyman said that “bridges have been broken in the publishing world” because of the incident, adding that “there will be a way to rebuild that trust with their writers and readers of color.”
“Although I was an accomplished writer and teacher on structural racism and colonialism,” she said, “Professor Sunny Singh, the author Monisha Rajesh and I became invisible to authors who endorsed this book, speaking only to white authors while expressing pejorative racism charged views. “from us.”
Rajesh told the BBC that she was unsure how the book could be updated as it was “riddled with racist and ableist tropics throughout,” including several sentences she believed “rooted in eugenics and phrenology.”