Adeshola Ore, The Guardian, January 29, 2024
Victoria’s oldest independent bookshop has apologised after its owner called for more picture books with “just white kids on the cover” and claimed that the chain would stop stocking “woke agenda” content that divided people.
Susanne Horman, the owner of Robinsons Bookshop chain, posted a series of tweets in December where she called for an “substantial shift” in Australian publishing, arguing the focus should be in line with public opinion, requests for books and “for what is good”.
“What’s missing from our bookshelves in store?” Horman wrote in one tweet, before the account was deleted. “Positive male lead characters of any age, any traditional nuclear white family stories, kids picture books with just white kids on the cover, and no wheelchair, rainbow or indigenous art, non indig [sic] aus history.”
Another post read: “Books we don’t need: hate against white Australians, socialist agenda, equity over equality, diversity and inclusion (READ AS anti-white exclusion), left wing govt propaganda. Basically the woke agenda that divides people. Not stocking any of these in 2024.”
Horman said she would not stock books that “intend to cause harm and make Australians hate each other”.
The posts, which were shared on an Instagram account, sparked backlash on social media, with some users saying they would boycott the stores.
In a Facebook post on Sunday night, Robinsons Bookshop said the comments had been “taken out of context” and “misrepresented the views” of the company.
“We sincerely apologise to anyone who has been offended by online comments that are being edited by individuals and posted on social media about Robinsons,” the post read.
“We clearly state, so there is no misunderstanding, that we fully support and encourage stories from diverse voices, minorities and we are most definitely stocking these important topics and the authors that write them.”
The bookstore said it would continue to advocate for “positive hope-filled stories that bring out the best in all our community and make all people feel supported and fulfilled.
“We ask everyone to treat all of our staff with kindness and respect.”
In a second Facebook post on Monday, the Robinsons Bookshop said it wanted to clarify the intent of the comments made by Horman.
It said the buying team at the company had noticed most books being released had “little variation of themes”.
“While some genres are overflowing on the shelves, others are noticeably bare,” the post said.
“Positive stories with men and boys as the hero are almost missing from the mix. Neither Susanne Horman, nor Robinsons Bookshop are making a value judgement on this observation. Susanne apologises if people have taken this comment as a negative reflection on an excellent range of diverse books.”
Robinsons Bookshop has seven stores across Melbourne, including in Frankston, Werribee and Greensborough.
Guardian Australia has contacted Horman for comment.