by Katherine Reilly
Imagine waking up on a beautiful sunny day, refreshed and eager to share your ideas with the whole world. With a glass of your favorite juice in one hand, and a notebook in the other, you make your way to your computer to catch up on all the news before starting work.
You scroll through the headlines, when suddenly, you find yourself drowning in your own beverage… How would one react, upon realization that one of the people you looked up to, who inspired and motivated you to become who you are today, turned out to be not only a fraud, but the literal embodiment of wickedness and hate?
Believe me, it’s not a feeling that I have overcome yet, nor will I in the foreseeable future. You see, ever since I was young, I always aspired to become an author. Despite having been raised in a safe and loving environment, I always felt as if I were locked up in a closet, with no means of escaping. My only retreat from reality, which helped shape me to become the woman I am today, are stories and films which included characters such as Harry Potter.
Now, most of you are probably aware of the racist slurs uttered by the ‘renowned’ author J.K.Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series; a series of books that have encouraged millions of readers around the world to ‘step out of the closet’ and find the courage to not only be themselves, but to stand up for what’s right in an unjust world.
Her views concerning individuals of the LGBTQI community, specifically her transphobic remarks, were not only unexpected but devastated and broke the hearts of millions of her readers. Going into detail about Rowling’s beliefs and views of the LGBTQI community is not the focus of this article. However, the burning question that has preoccupied our thoughts is, “Should we still be reading Harry Potter?”
In order to give a proper response, I would like to share my two cents on the issue; a secret if you will…
Something that most people don’t realize about authors is that there is a difference between one’s personal views and the ability to transfer his imagination to writing. What we should all bear in mind is that an author, has the capacity to bring his ideas to life, to project emotion, to inspire, to stimulate and provoke a reaction from his readers. This is a talent, and in most cases, a gift that not many people have had the privilege of possessing.
When an individual has the potential to redirect his thoughts onto paper in such a fashion, it is not only his duty, but his responsibility to share it with others. Imagination and creativity are the cornerstone of humanity and those who possess these traits must do so accordingly. Besides, an author is nothing without his characters and the love his characters receive from his readers.
In J.K. Rowling’s case, the characters of the Harry Potter series have received the love and admiration of millions of readers around the globe. If not for their support, not only would the series have come to a halt, but J.K. Rowling would not be in the prestigious position she is today… and that goes for all of us.
As an author myself, I have received the love and admiration of my readers. The love is mutual and I am eternally grateful for receiving it. What I have learned, is that being an author is a huge responsibility, as the characters you create resonate in peoples’ minds, offer encouragement, enlighten, educate, and in many cases serve as a constant reminder of hope, even in our darkest of moments.
Rowling’s remarks had me thinking whether I should throw away her books. My students also made their voices clearly heard, as their love for their transgender teacher, urged them to completely disregard J.K. Rowling and her works. It was quite a shock to them when I told them “Don’t throw away her books.”
My kids were left baffled as I calmly explained…
“An author and her work are two separate entities. Admittedly, there are authors who ‘abuse’ their gift of writing and integrate both their views and their talent into one. As intelligent human beings, we have the capacity to judge what is right from wrong. In Rowling’s case, her characters have taught us to love and support one another; to fight for a just cause, to abolish oppression and most importantly… to be ourselves.”
My students started pondering on my words as their faces eased. One of my braver students then asked me:
“But she literally offended so many people, including you, our teacher…”
Of course my student was right, but as individuals, as human beings, we can and will make a difference by eliminating the hate and prejudice, if we embrace Rowling’s characters ,NOT Rowling herself. This is what I explained to my students as they all came to realize that Harry Potter DOES NOT belong to Rowling. It belongs to the readers. The readers who helped him grow, and become the inspiration he is today.
An author’s characters DO NOT belong to the author, they belong to the readers, something I myself had the privilege of learning when a young girl presented me with a drawing of the characters of the first books I had written.
Bringing things to a close, as both a reader and a child who was also inspired by the wonderful characters of Harry and his friends, I will quote the following…
“If Harry Potter taught us anything, is that no one deserves to live in a closet”.