Seeing as we’ve just had World Book Day, this week’s pick is an author whose contribution to fiction has been one of the most monumental. Someone whose own life has been nearly as spectacular as the boy-wizard she’s created.
J K Rowling’s story meets your typical ‘rags to riches’ requirements, though she pertains that the coverage of it has been ‘50% true and 50% embroidery.’ The facts are that she went from living on state benefits solidly for 6 months as a single mother, to being the first billionaire to become so through writing, which is some sort of magic.
My generation grew up with the protagonists of her books sheperding us through our teen years and the world she’s created remains a steadfast staple of conversation even now. The rich abundance of characters that exist within the Hogwarts acted like our chums. Growing up, I kept a diary, and in my early double digits there are numerous entries that refer to Harry Potter (I become a little distracted as the films start to be released and a weird Daniel Radcliffe fixation begins, briefly quietening commentary on the books but Rowling’s world makes a triumphant return). I imagine lots of diaries were filled with expansions on the Harry Potter universe, desperate to exist within Rowling’s magical realm. From a young age, she recalls creating a sanctuary for herself within the world of books:“I was the epitome of a bookish child, short and squat, think National Health glasses, living in a world of complete daydreams.” She refers to Hermione as a near depiction of herself as an eleven-year-old.
There are so many fist pump moments in Harry Potter series that empower young people: Hermione entering the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum; Dobby’s freedom; Sirius’s goodness being revealed – it’s all great. Her twitter feed also depicts this spirit, finding herself in public spats where she protects what she believes in with ferocity and wit. Most recently against Piers Morgan:
Then, there’s the darkness: Voldemort; absence of parents; continual betrayals. And then the Dementors, which Rowling has acknowledged are symbolic of depression, giving her a chance to explore mental health. J K Rowling has given a really special and enduring gift in Harry Potter, I can think of no richer source for young people to stretch their imagination and gain companionship.
And, aside from her work, she’s an avid protector of left values, having donated over 1 million pounds to the Labour Party. She was named “most influential Woman in Britain” from several publications in October 2010. Plus, she ain’t no fool. When asked what book she’d take with her to a desert island, by Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs, she answered ‘SAS Survival Guide.’ I’d hedge my bets on her if an apocalypse were to occur.
She’s also enriched World Book Day by providing a plethora of dress-up inspiration…