Cape Town – The author of a controversial book that sparked outrage on social media has defended her writings.
Paula Marais, one of the authors of Rainbow Nation Navigation: A Practical Guide to South African Cultures and the director of the publisher, Logogog, later apologised on the publisher’s website, after initially defending her book on social media earlier on Monday.
The book contained offensive stereotypes about coloured people, and drew the ire of social media users on Monday. The excerpts were labelled racist and as perpetuating negative stereotypes.
“It is a true tragedy that the intention of the book has been lost,” she wrote. “My brother came down from travelling through Africa and felt inspired to try to get to know his fellow countrymen. I did too. We both had or were expecting children and we wanted them to grow up in a more tolerant country,” she said of the book, which hit the shelves seven years ago.
She said she had not received negative feedback until this weekend.
“We come from a ‘rainbow’ family, and wanted to encourage others to be more accepting. So we interviewed people, getting their input. Every single piece of information was gathered from the community as we felt we couldn’t speak for that community. Once the information was written, people from that community approved it."
“When it came to near the end of putting the book together, I was in and out hospital from birth complications so I was not directly involved in the ‘coloured’ chapter – despite the racist and hate mail I have received. I’ve also had threats to my personal safety."
“But yes, I am the publisher, so I take responsibility.”
A petition to remove the book from circulation was started on mobile hosting site Amandla Awethu.
“The information, particularly about coloured people is defamatory and racist,” the petition read. “The information is ill informed and dangerous in creating assumptions. Publisher Paula Marais has taken no responsibility, saying it was verified by people of ‘that’ culture, further exposing her attitude towards accountability.”
In response to the backlash, the publisher is now reworking the chapter, and has asked for public input. “Please e-mail [email protected] with feedback.”