A Victorian bookshop owner has been forced to apologise after a series of remarks, including calling for more books with "just white kids on the cover", as well as claiming the chain would stop stocking content that featured a "woke agenda".
In a series of now deleted tweets from December, Susanne Horman, the owner of Robinsons Bookshop chain - the oldest independent bookshop in Victoria - said there had been a shift in publishing. She argued books should mirror public perception, vowing to stop selling books which "cause harm and make Australians hate each other".
"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. #weneedbetterstories," Horman wrote.
In another tweet, Horman stated: "What's missing from our bookshelves in store? Positive male lead characters of any age, any traditional 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."
The posts were uploaded by the Instagram account coffeebooksandmagic, receiving hundreds of comments condemning Horman.
In a Facebook post on Sunday evening, Robinsons bookshop apologised for comments that she said were "taken out of context" and "being edited by individuals and posted on social media about Robinsons".
"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 statement said.
"As a business we will continue advocating for positive hope-filled stories that bring out the best in all our community and make all people feel supported and fulfilled."
The post said the views were not those of Robinsons and for everyone to treat the staff of the bookshop chain with "kindness and respect."
In a later statement on Monday, Robinsons said the buying team had seen books released with "little variation of themes" and argued "Susanne Horman…believes this has caused an opportunity in the market for authors to fill."
"While some genres are overflowing on the shelves, others are noticeably bare. 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."
Whilst saying they stocked a range of genres to cater for everyone, Robinsons nevertheless argued "mainstream fiction with males or boys as the hero in general, are now all but missing, resulting in very few fiction titles for essentially half the population."
"Susanne Horman and Robinsons Bookshop apologises if any comments made on social media have upset or offended anyone and would like to reassure customers that it will continue to stock a diverse range of books," they wrote.
Yorta Yorta writer and radio host Daniel James told The Age the comments came off the back of the damaging Voice referendum debate.
"I'm perplexed by [Horman's] position considering how many books and stories are written by white men," he said.
"The way we change things and get Australians to understand issues facing First Nations people is through stories ... we are in the golden age of First Nations storytelling through books, music, television, and anyone choosing to not stock our books would be doing themselves a disservice, because these books sell."