Amanda Gorman is a young black poet and political activist, who was recognized in 2017 as the first winner of the then newly created National Youth Poet Laureate. After gaining fame for speaking at the inauguration of President Biden, Gorman’s work has been highly acclimated by publishers globally. The poet has been under fire after her translators were asked to resign because they were not black.
Marieke Lukas Rijneveld, a young Dutch writer and winner of the prestigious International Booker Prize, had been chosen by the Meulenhoff publishing house to translate Amanda Gorman’s work into Dutch. Rijnevel had the approval and admiration of Amanda Gorman herself and her team.
But after an opinion piece by Janice Deul in the Dutch press, who calls herself a “cultural/fashion activist”, and the subsequent uproar it generated on social media, Rijnevel resigned from the job she had been commissioned to do, and for which she was so excited and proud.
Janice Deul believes that Marieke Lukas Rijneveld is not the right person to translate Amanda Gorman’s work because she is not black and, according to her, cannot understand her words to their fullest extent. Deul while having nothing personal against the young writer, stressed that she is of a non-binary gender.
Apparently Rijneveld, in a display of infinite tolerance, was very sympathetic to Janice Deul’s reverse racism and felt that quitting the job was the most appropriate thing to do. Meulenhof, for its part, issued a statement supporting Rijneveld’s resignation, saying that they had learned a lot from the arguments made by Janice Deul demanding her dismissal. Janice Deul thanked the company for its decision in a tweet addressed to Meulenhof’s CEO.
The company announced that it will “build a team” taking into account the race of its members, in order to translate not only Amanda Gorman’s “words of hope and inspiration” but also her “spirit.” Apparently, they understand that the best way to convey the essence of tolerance and anti-racism is to look at the color of the translators’ skin.
Amanda Gorman’s Catalan translator has also been forced to resign
The Catalan poet Victor Obiols, poet was the one chosen by the Univers label to translate Amanda Gorman’s work. According to La Vanguardia, Obiols himself denounced in an interview on RAC1 radio that the agency of the poet Amanda Gorman had vetoed him to translate her poems into Catalan.
Univers informed him that the American agency representing Gorman considered that his profile, despite his proven experience and trajectory, was not the right one, preferring “a woman, young, activist, poet, with experience as a translator and, preferably, African-American”, in the words of Ester Pujol, editor of Univers.
We assume that the director used the adjective “African-American” to avoid mentioning skin color, and that in reality the person chosen could be Afro-Catalan, or of any nationality but with a black complexion, since, according to Ester Pujol, she believes that the selection criteria “will have to be adapted to the demographics of each country.”
Amanda Gorman and her rise to fame
After winning the 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman’s fame has risen meteorically. This award not only honors the poetic and literary qualities of its awardees, but places special emphasis on these being accompanied by political activism linked to “civic engagement” and “social justice.”
Since its inception, this award has received the support of left-wing personalities such as Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, before Joe Biden gave it the definitive boost by inviting Amanda Gorman to the inaugural ceremony of his presidency, where she recited The Hill We Climb.