JK Rowling Has Disappointed Me

I have made no secret of loving the Harry Potter series, either on this blog or in my everyday life and proudly identify myself as a Ravenclaw. And yet, the author of this most-beloved series has recently come out as anti-trans, testing the love that I have for the author of one of my most beloved childhood series. I recently read Molly Fischer’s article on JK Rowling on Vulture, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

To be honest, JK Rowling has been testing my love for a while. I have always been a bit troubled that she wouldn’t just leave her series alone instead of constantly dropping knowledge bombs on readers. Mostly because I’m not sure that giving readers “revelations” is all that necessary or helpful. Instead, those revelations have felt like a desperate bid on Rowling’s part to hang onto her fictional universe and to maintain control over how that universe is interpreted. In my opinion, once you share your fictional world with others, you have ceded that control. They story has been given to us, and now it is apart of us. The magic of Harry Potter doesn’t just come from the words Rowling put on the page, but also from the interactions readers have with this universe and its characters. While Rowling of course maintains copyright over her world, I don’t believe that the reading experience belongs to her, nor should it be dictated by her. Without the readers and their own interpretations, all you have is print on the pages of closed books. The magic comes from the dialogue between hearts and minds of the readers and the words she penned.

This is not to say that Harry Potter is perfect. It’s not. While it has always felt inspiring to me, it doesn’t deal a lot in ambiguities, has major diversity problems, and presents a mostly white, cis view of the world. We can (and should) critique it in many ways. But now I am presented with a separate issue, which is how to reconcile the political views of the author with a magical world that I have loved since I was eight years old.

This is a problem that doesn’t apply solely to JK Rowling. Deciding how/whether to separate the creator from the art they’ve created is a complex problem, applying to a great many children’s book authors, and I don’t pretend to have any answers about it. I understand that many people make decisions about the world that we live in based on fear and trauma. But it’s particularly disappointing to have anti-trans sentiments spew forth from an author whose character’s were supposed to be judged based on their actions rather than their abilities they were born with, and who were seen for their potential. In a children’s author who prizes imagination, the lack of empathy Rowling has shown is disappointing and hurtful. And I understand that it’s okay to disagree with people politically, but I find it harder to disagree productively with someone who sees certain groups of people as less worthy of the love, nurturing, and worth that she instilled into her characters.

Ultimately, I’m not sure where that leaves me. Exhausted? Exasperated? Often when the world makes me feel this way, I return to Harry Potter for comfort. I still think these books have done a lot of good–inspiring fanfiction writers and activists (Harry Potter Alliance) and tolerance. If I believe that the magic of these books are partially created in the minds of the people who read them, I must believe there’s still a lot more good they can do. But maybe it’s the fans and readers we need to turn to for answers rather than the author, who unleashed her books on the world and who now has to understand that the magic belongs to all of us. And I mean all of us.

Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Favorite Female Authors

This calligraphy “Top Ten Tuesday” picture is free to use, but please give credit to Allison of Aliza Shandel. Your respectfulness is much appreciated!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from the Broke and the Bookish.

Since today’s topic was actually a freebie, I thought I’d do a list on the life blood of this year’s reading challenge, which is all about female authors. Making this list wasn’t as easy as I’d thought, as my true favorite author list would be a pretty equal combination of both male and female authors, so I had to broaden my favorites. This means that I went backwards in reading history, and selected authors that made my childhood/young adulthood come to life.

So here they are in alphabetical order:

Margaret Atwood: Atwood is a relatively new discovery for me, as I read her book The Handmaid’s Tale just before 2015 had begun. Her deft mix of social commentary and science fiction is not to be missed, and when she isn’t writing science fiction she has an amazing mastery of character and description that allow her to hop from genre to genre. One day I’d like to be able to write like her–just a little bit.

Jane Austen: Some people claim that music or sports or certain groups of friends got them through high school, but I certainly think Jane Austen receives a lot of thanks for getting me through that period of time. Each of her heroines give different insight in what it means to be a woman, what it means to be in love, and what it means to navigate through an unyielding social system. Beyond the romance, Austen makes her characters people and she gives them the chance to improve themselves.

Meg Cabot: This woman is simply inspiring in the sheer volume of her work combined with its total readability. Her characters are just insecure enough and just strong enough to conquer all of the bizarre challenges she throws their way. Cabot got me through middle school without a doubt, though she did plant an absurd idea in my mind that it was possible to suddenly find out you’re a princess…

Angela Carter: A new discovery of mine also from last year, I can already tell Carter and I are going to be very happy together. Her short story collection The Bloody Chamber was dark and magical and completely enchanting. Her fairy tale adaptations were nothing short of brilliant–innovative, but still capturing that grim and slightly gruesome fairy tale mood.

Emily Dickinson: I tried to keep this list geared towards novelists and not poets, but I couldn’t resist adding this one. Dickinson’s poems capture little microcosms. Her small poems cut right to the heart of the matter and the person reading them.

Gail Carson Levine: Levine and I go way back. I read Ella Enchanted and loved her. Her adaptations have so much light and hope and her heroines have so much gumption. Her books were mainstays in my childhood.

Sylvia Plath: There are some writers you wish you could be as brilliant as, and then there are some you knew you would go crazy (literally) if you attempted to emulate them. Plath is just scary dark and scary good. Her writing makes mental illness accessible–more human and more possible for the average person. If you haven’t read The Bell Jar, you really should.

JK Rowling: All Potter fans think they’re the biggest ones. My love of these books runs very very deep. I’ve read them countless times and I reread them every summer. They capture something that is very hard to explain. She really understands teenagers and the universe she creates is vast and so easy to see yourself living in. I think she’ll continue to capture hearts for years to come.

Zadie Smith: Can I just say I read a lot of good books last year? This is another author I’ve just recently found for myself. Smith’s writing is humorous, witty, poignant, and tight–she has such control over her narrative and her characters. She’s obviously fond of them, but she doesn’t let them get away with just anything. White Teeth is one of the most amazing first novels I’ve ever read.

Patricia C Wrede: Another mainstay of my childhood, Wrede is another of those fantasy authors I couldn’t put down, whether it was Sorcery and Cecilia (cowritten with Caroline Stevermer) or the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Her heroines were just so feisty and the stories were playful and gripping.

I think what you can tell from these books is that I love well written female protagonists, fantasy, and whimsy mixed with just the right amount of feminism, wit, and gothic sensibilities.

Do any of these authors make your favorites list? What is your favorite book written by one of these amazing women? Let me know in the comments.