Writer at center of cancel culture row goes to war with focus groups over revising her memoir

Editor banned Kate Clanchy from using words ‘disfigured’ or ‘disabled’ so her work ‘plays better on Twitter’, author claims

  • Kate Clanchy said publisher hired ‘sensitivity readers’ to analyze her memoir
  • The author, 57, said she was ‘horrified that people find prejudice and cruelty’
  • The Orwell Prize winner said the group rated ‘offensive’ words on a scale of one to three

An author at the center of a cancel culture row says ‘fuspots’ reviewing his memoir advised him against using the words ‘disability’ or ‘disfigured’ to make his work “would play better on Twitter”.

Kate Clanchy, who wrote Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, revealed her former editor Picador recruited ‘sensitivity readers’ to ‘detect and reform problematic racism and ableism’ in his Orwell Prize-winning book.

It came after the 2019 memoir about her life as a public school teacher was criticized for allegedly portraying some students in racist ways.

Miss Clanchy, 57, said she was ‘horrified that people found prejudice and cruelty’ in the book and ‘went into the process’ of having the memoirs reviewed by sensibilities ‘experts’ .

Kate Clanchy (pictured), who wrote Some Kids I Taught And What They Taught Me, has revealed her former editor Picador recruited ‘sensitivity readers’ to ‘detect and reform problematic racism and ableism’ in her award-winning book of the Orwell Prize.

Writing for the UnHerd website, she said a focus group rated allegedly offensive words and passages on a scale of one to three.

She wrote: “A reader fusses over simple words: I shouldn’t use the ‘disfigurement’ of a landscape (offense level 3, because presumably comparing bings – heaps of rubble – to boils could be harmful to people with acne).

‘Nor should I use ‘handicap’ in its ordinary sense of ‘obstructing’ (level 2, serious offence); and I should prefer the acronym ‘SEN’ to its original phrase, Special Educational Needs, as it is more inclusive (offense level 2).’

She added: “My readers, however, were not hired as literary. They are there to help create a book that would perform better on Twitter, not a better-written book.

Miss Clanchy, who received an MBE in 2019, cut ties with Picador before the revised version of the book was published.

Swift Press reissued it without the edits but with further edits.

Swift Press told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The only thing we want to say is that minor revisions have been made because Kate wanted to make them.

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