A teacher-turned-award-winning-author who faced being ‘cancelled’ by social media users over claims her work ‘peddled racism’ says was pushed to the brink of suicide by the row.
Critically-acclaimed author Kate Clanchy, 57, a mother-of-three from Scotland, faced criticism for her Orwell Prize-winning memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me.
Although authors and even her own pupils praised the groundbreaking book, some readers online accused her of peddling racism, which led to Clanchy’s publisher of 20 years cutting ties with her.
Critically-acclaimed author Kate Clanchy, 57, posing with her MBE. The former state school teacher was cancelled by an online Twitter mob for alleged ‘racism’
The author, who was awarded an MBE in 2018, said her publisher Picador, which is an imprint of Pan Macmillan, failed in its duty of care to her.
Instead of protecting her, the publisher has tried to erase her work from existence in a very public whitewashing.
Clanchy says she came close to suicide when she was copied into an email from a senior person at Picador that seemed to show the publisher washing their hands of her.
It seemed as if every author apart from herself had been sent the email.
The mother-of-three’s memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me won the Orwell Prize in 2020
She said the feeling to take her own life ‘was very strong’.
‘I’m a mentally healthy person,’ she told The Times. ‘I’m very resilient. I’m a teacher. But I was amazed by the strength of the ideation.’
It came as she had already lost both her parents just days apart to Covid that year and was faced with the breakup of her marriage.
Pan Macmillan announced last week it would no longer work with Clanchy and would stop distributing all eight of her books with the publisher, meaning the works are no longer for sale in bookshops or even as ebooks.
Kate claimed some of the offending references were taken out of context but later apologised and said she would rewrite the book.
‘I apologise many, many times over. I am sorry,’ she told The Times.
Yet she denied the claims of racism and doubled down, saying her book was ‘anti-racist’.
Her publisher, Picador, was accused of not going far enough in its initial statement on the row.
It later issued two apologies and said it was discussing the best way to update future editions of the book.
It said it apologised ‘profoundly for the hurt we have caused, the emotional anguish experienced by many of you who took the time to engage with the text, and to hold us to account.’
After the mob faced backlash from people not so keen to cancel the author, the publisher added: ‘We vigorously condemn the despicable online bullying of many of those who have spoken out.
‘This has no place in our community.’
Twitter users slammed Clanchy over the writing online, with some saying the book had ‘triggered’ them
The controversy surrounding the book stems from passages with phrases such as ‘chocolate-coloured skin’ to describe a black child and one girl as having ‘almond eyes’. The text also describes two autistic children as ‘jarring company’.
However, the famed author, who was also a state school teacher for more than 30 years, hit back at the cancel culture mob.
She said the phrases were not racist but derived from how the children described themselves.
Yet one student shared a lengthy statement on Twitter in which she stated Kate had ‘given the students platforms they never expected’
The supposedly racist passages were shared on Twitter but many authors jumped to her defence.
Leading novelist Philip Pullman said her book was as ‘humane, warm, decent, generous and welcoming’.
Meanwhile, one of her former pupils, Shukria Rezaei, identified herself as the ‘girl with the almond eyes’ in The Times.
She wrote: ‘Critics labelled [Kate’s] description patronising, insulting, offensive, colonialist and racist. This upset me… I did not find it offensive.’
Meanwhile another pupil, Asima Qayyum, 23, who was at the time studying for a politics, economics and law degree, said Kate’s impact on her life was ‘unimaginably and overwhelmingly positive’
Twitter users had slammed Clanchy over the writing online. One wrote: ‘This has horrified and triggered me.
‘This book is full of racism and ableism. Privileged people always hail teachers like this, while disabled people & people of colour have their lives seriously damaged by them.
‘Look at all the privileged jumping to her defence too!’
Another said: ‘Just caught up on the racist tropes in Kate Clanchy’s writing.
‘Read extracts, the kind of crude, blunt historical racism that lives on in white discourse.’
MailOnline has contacted Pan MacMillan for comment.
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