The book that tore publishing apart: ‘Harm has been done, and now everyone’s afraid’
Kate Clanchy’s memoir about teaching won the Orwell prize. Then, a year later, it became the centre of a storm that would engulf the lives of the author, her critics and dozens of people in the book trade. So what happened?
At the end of March, a book that had been condemned to die came back to life. There was no star-studded launch, and no great fanfare, although this book is now somewhat famous. The new publisher of the poet Kate Clanchy’s memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me felt it wrong to cash in on the controversy that has engulfed it. So the new editions – with some intriguing changes to the original text – were quietly resupplied to bookshops willing to stock them.
What follows is a tale that reverberates well beyond publishing. It’s about whose voice is heard, which stories are told, and by whom. But it has broader implications for working life, too, particularly in industries where so-called culture wars raging through the outside world can no longer be left at the office door.