Today, J.K Rowling, the writer who changed the game for women in book publishing, turns 56. Here we remember her story.
The Woman Post | Valentina Ibarra
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Just like Harry Potter, her most famous character, J.K Rowling was born on July 31. The decision to give him her same birthday shows how profoundly personal the books were for her. Harry Potter did not only shape an entire generation but also transformed Rowling’s life forever.
While writing the first Harry Potter book, she had to face a complicated divorce, the death of her mother, and money struggles. She survived with government aid after obtaining a restraining order for her husband, who has publicly admitted domestic abuse. During this time, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, which led her to even consider suicide. But she used all of her problems to complete her books, showing the feel of grief in Harry and the impact of depression in the Dementors.
Born as Joanne, she had to use an acronym to publish her books because her editors were unsure that kids would want to read a fantasy book written by women. She kept the J for her name and added the K for her grandmother, Kathleen, as she did not have a second name. Harry Potter becoming a success changed the paradigm for female writers, as it became obvious that their talent could give best-sellers. She kept the pseudonyms for her other book saga, Cormoran Strike. For these crime novels, she used the name, Robert Galbraith.
Against all odds, she became a successful writer who impacted millions of lives around the world. Her story is one of overcoming adversity: From poverty and discrimination for being a woman to becoming the writer of the best-selling book series in history. Rowling rapidly became the first-ever billionaire author, but she lost this status after donating much of her earnings to charity, including organizations anti-poverty, for children’s welfare, and multiple sclerosis (which her mother suffered). She chose them based on her own life experience.
Nowadays, Rowling has become a controversial figure. She has released statements concerning the usage of women bathrooms by trans women, which has been interpreted as transphobic because it defined them by their genitals. The situation escalated on social media as fans were expressing how frustrating it was to see their idol doing discriminatory comments. Because of that, the biggest stars of the Harry Potter movie franchise went public with their opinions. Emma Watson, who interpreted Hermione Granger, said that transexual people deserve to live their lives without being questioned or told that they are not valid. Other actors, including Rupert Grint (Ron), Bonnie Wright (Ginny), and Eddie Redmayne (Newt).
But the most heartfelt comment came from Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, who thanked Rowling for her impact on his life but said he could not ignore the situation. Considering that for a lot of LGBTQ kids these books were the first step to accept and love themselves, the transphobic comments felt like a betrayal. He addressed that by saying that if the Harry Potter books ever taught them that love is the strongest force, that strength is found in diversity, and it ever resonated or helped them in their life, it is a sacred relationship between the book and them. Daniel’s message came with a strong sense of separating the work from the artist, proving that he completely disagreed with his once mentor.
Her whole story shows the complexity of human beings. It cannot be denied that her role in giving a bigger voice to female writers was crucial and that her success was against all odds, but she still fell into discriminatory discourses years later. To see all sides of idols is important to really understand their impact. On J.K Rowling’s birthday, we should celebrate her groundbreaking story, but also acknowledge her mistakes.