Sir Philip Pullman has resigned as President of the Society of Authors following controversy over his support of an author accused of racist and ableistic stereotypes.
In a letter sent to the group’s management committee this month, the author of His Dark Materials said he “will not be free to express my personal opinions” as long as he remains in the role.
Last year, the 75-year-old spoke out in support of Scottish writer Kate Clanchy after her memoir Some Kids I Taught And What They Taught Me drew criticism for its descriptions of schoolchildren.
Passages referred to their “almond-shaped eyes” and “chocolate-colored skin,” while two autistic students were described as “troubled society.”
In a tweet last August, Sir Philip defended her book, describing it as “human, warm, decent, generous and welcoming”.
The company then distanced itself from his statements.
Sir Philip later apologized, said he had “hastily responded” and described the criticism of the book as “fair and balanced”.
He added that people of color’s “experiences and ideas” “deserve every respect.”
Sir Philip has been a member of the Society of Authors for 35 years and joined the committee of the Children’s Authors and Illustrators Group in 1991.
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He joined the Council in 2004 and was elected President in 2013.
In his letter of resignation, Sir Philip said: “When it became clear that what I said was taken to represent the views of society as a whole (although they did not, and did not intend to do so) and that I was being misinterpreted by people inside and outside the society was pressured to withdraw and apologize, I realized that I would not freely express my personal opinion as long as I remained President.
“That is the case, with great regret and after much deliberation I have decided to resign.”
Nicola Solomon, Executive Secretary of the Society of Authors, said: “We were very sorry when Philip informed us in February that he wished to resign and regret that his personal views have been so closely scrutinized as a result of his presidency of the SoA.
“Social media has changed the way we all communicate, both organizations and individuals. We are in the process of revising the bylaws to reflect the times we live in, including the roles of the management committee, chair and president.”
Some Kids I Taught And What They Taught Me was acquired by independent publisher Swift Press after original publisher Picador split from Clanchy.
The remastered version removes the words and phrases that caused the controversy.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/philip-pullman-resigns-as-society-of-authors-president-following-book-row-41487493.html Philip Pullman resigns as President of the Society of Authors after a book series