Kate Clanchy and her publisher Pan Macmillan will no longer be working together, and distribution of all of her titles is to cease, following widespread criticism last summer of her book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me.
Readers took to Goodreads and Twitter to point out racial tropes and ableist descriptions in the Orwell prize-winning book about Clanchy’s experience as a teacher. For example, one child was described as being “so small and square and Afghan with his big nose and premature moustache” while two autistic students were said to be “jarring company”.
As a result of the complaints, Clanchy issued an apology in August and announced that her publisher had given her the opportunity to rewrite parts of the book.
However, in a joint statement by Clanchy and Pan Macmillan published in the Bookseller on Thursday, it was revealed that plans for the revised version, which had been due to come out in autumn 2021, have now been scrapped.
“By mutual agreement, Pan Macmillan and Kate Clanchy have decided to part company,” the statement reads.
“Pan Macmillan will not publish new titles nor any updated editions from Kate Clanchy, and will revert the rights and cease distribution of Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me and her other works.”
“Pan Macmillan wishes Kate Clanchy all the best for the future.”
This means that Friend: Poems by Young People, an anthology of work by Clanchy’s pupils, will no longer be published by Pan Macmillan in March as planned.
Debates over Clanchy’s work and wider issues around sensitivity in the publishing industry were reignited in December when Clanchy wrote an article for Prospect magazine entitled “Ostracised, disinvited, rescinded: what it’s like to get cancelled”. This followed a feature in the Telegraph about the “crisis” facing literary fiction, in which Pan Macmillan publisher Philip Gwyn Jones expressed “regrets” about how he and his colleagues had handled the initial criticism of Clanchy’s book. “We weren’t clear enough in our support for the author and her rights,” he told the newspaper, before later apologising for the remarks on Twitter.
After the initial complaints about Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me surfaced in August, writers such as Philip Pullman and Amanda Craig came to Clanchy’s defence, while three of the book’s critics, Chimene Suleyman, Monisha Rajesh and Sunny Singh, received racist abuse from social media users. This led to an an open letter in their support, which was signed by more than 1,000 people.
The events prompted an open invitation signed by the authors Nikesh Shukla and Yara Rodrigues Fowler among others which proposed the formation of a group that would “change the UK publishing industry for the better”.
“Writers and workers frustrated by injustice in publishing should join a union and organise,” Rodrigues Fowler told the Guardian. “It is the only way to change the industry. History shows us that politely asking profit-driven corporations to change never works, but building collective power does.”