Like millions of other readers around the world, Jo Rowling’s Harry Potter series had a profound impact on my life. Unlike so many readers, Harry Potter and his friends defined my parenthood. You see, I discovered the series right after giving birth to Connor. Jim and I spent each night taking turns reading aloud one chapter from the first three books while the other gave Connor his last bottle of the day and rocked him to sleep. It was a peaceful ritual and quickly became one of our favorite parts of the day.
By the time the fourth book came out, Connor was almost ready to read the series on his own. He learned to read and immediately jumped into the Harry Potter series, reading the first few books so many times that the cover of the first book is hanging by a thread. As we neared the end of the series, I would preorder two copies of each of the books, one for him and one for me.
When Holly was born, she too became a Harry Potter fan. Harry Potter became the tool with which we practiced reading, alternating paragraphs for her to read aloud, knowing that the familiar story would help her with any difficult words. She too received her own copies of the series because they were such a large part of her childhood.
My kids and I know our houses. I personally have three tattoos dedicated to something HP related. Holly, Connor, and I spent hours discussing the series and the characters, the merits (and faults) of each movie, trying Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and researching recipes for pumpkin juice. When Android and Apple released the first Wizarding World game for your phone, Holly and I were among the first to download it.
The Harry Potter books taught me to fight against injustices and tyranny. Harry taught me to teach them the importance of tolerance and inclusivity. Hermione helped me reiterate the importance of book learning and logic. Through Ron, I was able to show them what true loyalty and friendship looks like. The Weasleys showed the kids what a family looks like. And the entire series gave us something we all enjoyed.
Within the past few years, however, our discussions about Harry Potter and the series changed. My kids no longer saw it as a magical story full of adventure and fabulous life lessons. Instead, they started seeing and talking about the problems inside the story – Jews as goblins, house-elf slavery that upset no one but Hermione, werewolves as a metaphor for AIDS with Lupin as a stand-in for predatory homosexuals or those who target children, the promotion of Irish and Scottish stereotypes in Seamus – a drinker and brawler and the red-haired Weasleys – large families, negative Chinese representation in Cho Chang and her two last names, her lack of LGBTQ+ representation, and so much more. They no longer see Harry Potter as an adventurous and inspiring story but rather as a living embodiment of everything Jo Rowling has since come out to say to her followers.
I have always taken the approach that one can hate the artist but love his/her art. There are too many examples in my lifetime where this is the case, the biggest of which would be Michael Jackson. I encouraged my kids to adopt the same philosophy with Jo because I still thought her work was admirable. Even as her opinions about transgender became public, I hoped they would look past that and still enjoy her stories. And then we got the synopsis of the next Cormoron Strike novel.
With that novel, I am officially done with Jo Rowling. It was one thing to have different interpretations of her work as was the case with my kids and myself. It is something completely different to see her opinions directly stated in her fiction, as is the case with Troubled Blood. Sure, there are some articles I read that said that the rush to judge her story of a male serial killer who dressed as a woman to hunt his female victims is not just premature but also unwarranted. The thing is that I don’t believe the authors of these articles.
The reason why my kids have such issues with the Harry Potter series is because of everything Rowling has said in public since their publication. As the public understands her biases, we see those same biases in her books. Rowling has been very outspoken in her opinion of the transgender community in recent months. If she has a history of inserting her opinions into her books, then we have to assume that she would also deliberately add anti-transgender ideas into her current novel.
There are too many instances where Jo has gone onto social media to say something that is completely against everything I believe and everything I taught my kids to believe. She is not going to change. In fact, I almost believe she enjoys the uproar her comments create.
Regardless, I am done with Jo. I will no longer purchase anything that would give her royalties in any form. When I unpack my books, those books of hers I have but have not read will be going into the recycling bin. I will not review anything she wrote. There are too many equally good authors who are doing fabulous things for social justice that I want to support. It breaks my heart in some ways because she defined my parenting and my children’s childhoods, but part of growing up is removing toxic relationships from your life. Jo has become a toxic person, and I am removing her from my life.