It was December 3, 1998. I was driving home to the apartment that Ann and I shared in Cambridge, MA. The late Margo Adler, NPR correspondent and author of the wonderful book Drawing Down the Moon was doing a review of a book on All Things Considered. I remember arriving and parking and staying in the car to hear the whole thing. I was mesmerized. I went inside, spent a few minutes looking online and finally finding a recording of the show (no small feat in 1998!) and playing it for Ann. She was equally spellbound. We agreed that we should give this to lots of people that Christmas and so I ordered 6 copies from Amazon to give to friends and family. My 11 or 12 year old niece was deeply offended that we gave her a children’s book that year (she had been reading Black Ice at the time) but then read it and understood why. The book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
23 or so years since its debut, we own complete US and British hardcover series. We own most of a different UK hardcover series (more serious with woven covers), all of the extra books and the start of the picture book series that is currently coming out roughly one per year. We also own all eight movies both on DVD and iTunes (where I got lucky one day and got all eight for $20 when the price was mysteriously that low for a few hours one morning). And we own all seven books on audio, read by the delightful Jim Dale. When Ann was pregnant with Marci, I read the first book to Marci in utero. We went to midnight releases and took turns reading each book as it came out. The Potterverse has been a large part of all of our lives. But that was then.
J.K. Rowling has been saying some truly awful things. And it isn’t all that new. Marci has been telling us for more than two years that Rowling is transphobic, that the books are actually quite problematic with some thinly veiled racism and antisemitism. We always brushed it off as interpretation, or, later, that she was misguided and would come around. It wasn’t interpretation. She did not come around. This week she doubled down spouting long-refuted nonsense, right-wing transphobic talking points, and general ignorance. That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
This weekend, we’ll be taking all of the books and the DVDs and putting them into a box and storing them away. Maybe Rowling will get educated and realize she was wrong and make amends for the horrible things she has said and the attacks she has levied on one of the more vulnerable groups out there: trans-women. Our own daughter is a trans-woman and we cannot continue to make excuses for Rowling, nor can we separate the artist from the art. And it feels like a death in the family. I know this emotion, this is grief, this is mourning. But there is just no way to justify holding on to all of this with the artist who created it spouting so much hate and stupidity. So, while it may break our hearts, it is time to let it all go and to move on.
If you aren’t aware of any of this, I strongly suggest the following article by Aja Romano over at Vox: Harry Potter and the Author who Failed Us. It is very powerful and says everything I would want to say but far better.
And I will be on the lookout for a new series that gave me what this one had over the years. Until then, might I suggest the Prydain Chronicals by Lloyd Alexander?