Tag Archives: J.K. Rowling

Number 5 Hero of the Year Award 2011: J.K. Rowling

28 Dec

Number 5 Hero of 2011

As 2011 comes to a close it is nice to look back at our top five heroes and celebrate each of them for helping to make the world a better place.  J.K. Rowling earns the number 5 spot for Hero of 2011.  Her Harry Potter Series helped a generation of young adults to look at the world through a lens of right and wrong and integrity.  Rowling also got her readers to open their minds and welcome into their hearts a gay Head of School, Albus Dumbledore.

Having recently re-read and watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one almost wonders if Rowling was exposing the abuse of power and the horrific bigotry of the United States under the Bush W administration.  I thank Rowling for making us look at issues of social justice and for inspiring millions of us to read and to be engaged in the world we live in — to inspire us to leave the world a better place than how we found it.

Flashback to 2010: The Number 5 Hero of the Year Award for 2010 was Daphne’s Mom.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Social Justice In Our Time

26 Jul

Social Justice in Our Time

(Spoiler Alert for those that have not read or seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)  We finally went to see the last Harry Potter movie last night.  I had been putting it off because it is the last of the movies and a painful reminder that I have finished reading all seven books. (While I have read most of the books at least twice, I have read book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, at least five times). The movie was absolutely brilliant and very close to the book.  Watching the movie made me reflect on an era I shall refer to as the Harry Potter times.

As an important part of my reflections, I am compelled to thank J.K. Rowling for getting an entire generation reading and engaged thinking about issues around social justice. My introduction to her wonderful books was as reluctant as I imagine it was for some young readers. We had just started a new century and a new millennium and my husband and I just bought our first house together.  I was also in the process of helping to start a new school, The Atlanta Girls’ School (AGS).  Lots of new starts and lots of hope in the air.  My husband and three specific students of mine at AGS hounded — and I do mean hounded — me to start reading the Harry Potter Series! I protested for well over six months.  “I’m not into fantasy,” I said. “It is just not my type of book,” I implored. Oy! Finally, I acquiesced just to placate my husband and the students, all of whom I love.

I was completely hooked by the time I finished the first book.  Rowling had cast a spell upon me and catapulted me into a world where issues of social justice, racism, misogyny, discrimination, classicism, ageism, and homophobia would dictate a tumultuous and finally triumphant 11 year journey, a journey that in many ways reflected both the joys and heartbreaks of my life over the course of the past decade.

In book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we see the issues of racism and classism addressed through the treatment of house elves. Our Hermione works to set up a quasi civil rights movement to free the house elves.  To the reader’s great relief we see Dobby become a free elf.  For those detractors of Rowling and her books, I say shame on you. Don’t we want children’s literature to be didactic in nature? Do we not want our children to learn right from wrong, about discrimination and oppression?

I remember reading book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, during some of the darkest days of the George W. Bush years.  When no one was allowed to questions or criticize W. Questioning him resulted in being labeled “unpatriotic.”  This was also the time when W. and Cheney started their vilification of the LGBT community, so as to take our focus off of the war in Iraq, or the start of the never-ending recession. It was a time when taxes were cut and W. sent checks to the American people and told us to spend our way out of the recession–so much for that brilliant idea.  Reading about the Ministry of Magic and seeing our Dolores Umbridge as the Head of Hogwarts was such a mirror of what was happening in the political landscape in the United States.  When Sirius Black dies at the end of book five, I mourned for Harry, but was also mourning for a country that was scaffolding the architecture of a nefarious government that was in practice a theocracy–a government that made Ronald Reagan look like a Marxist. Incidentally, I had to re-read book three after I finished book five.

Rowling’s moral compass inspires great courage, integrity, and a heart that recognizes the greater good for the greater cause in books six and seven. With the death of the patriarchal/matriarchal Dumbledore, we witness phenomenal courage and sacrifice in none other than Severus Snape. In the Harry Potter series, we see people banding together to help one another.  While we see the dark side of humanity in Voldemort and his minions, we also see the humanity at its best in Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, Snape and the rest of the cast of characters who put aside their respective egos and work for the greater good.

Who will the next writer be that inspires millions of us to read and to be engaged in the world we live in; to inspire us to leave the world a better place than how we found it?

Hero of the Week Award: July 15

15 Jul

Hero of the Week

As the world goes to see the final installment in the Harry Potter film series, let us celebrate the wonderful woman who brought us so much joy. This week’s hero is J.K. Rowling.

Rowling is appropriate for celebration on TSM for many reasons. Besides crafting a wonderful series of books that encouraged a generation to read (despite being challenged in libraries across the United States), she used those books to encourage people to be honest, fair, and and true to themselves. Using her magical world, Rowling addressed poverty, oppression, politics (compare the Ministry of Magic to the Bush administration), slavery, and racism.  By showing the noble side of a nerd like Longbottom or the true friendship of an outcast like Luna, she encourages her readers to take a look at their preconceptions and judge people by the depth of their character. In the character of Professor Albus Dumbledore, Rowling also created a wise, compassionate gay role model for LGBTQ youth and their straight peers. Not insignificantly, her work has also inspired those who have voiced her characters to do good works themselves, as characterized by the charitable work of Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter of the screen.

The wonderful Ms. Rowling has not stopped with her books. As a woman who wrote her first book as a single mother living in poverty, she understands the power of the money she now has and is committted to using it for good. In 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, which uses its annual budget of £5.1 million to combat poverty and social inequality. The fund also gives to organisations that aid children, one parent families, and multiple sclerosis research. Rowling said, “I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” She engages in substantial other philanthropic work.

Rowling has also contributed heavily to the British Labour Party, recognizing the dangers of a Tory government. Responding to Prime Minister Cameron’s patronizing plan to give couples that do not divorce a £150 tax credit, she said:

Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say “it’s not the money, it’s the message”. When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron’s only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is “get married, and we’ll give you £150”, he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation.

Cheers to J.K. Rowling for bringing the world joy with a message, for compassion and giving, for providing a voice for social justice.  Rowling through her actions, deeds, and novels gives the world a moral compass to adhere to and emulate.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 30, Albus Dumbledore

30 Jun

June 30 is the last day of LGBTQ History Month and I wanted to celebrate someone that has had a significant impact in the area of social justice in the past decade.  The Sorcerer’s Stone was released exactly 14 years ago today.  Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Albus Dumbledore.  While he may be a fictional gay character, the impact he has had on an entire generation of youth regarding integrity, character, and social justice is profound.

While J.K. Rowling assumed that we all knew Dumbledore was gay, it was not until The Half-Blood Prince that we learn about Dumbledore’s love interest. In an article from the website The Leaky Cauldron and The Associated Press, Rowling said:

Calling any Harry Potter character gay would make wonderful strides in tolerance toward homosexuality…. By dubbing someone so respected, so talented and so kind, as someone who just happens to be also homosexual, she’s reinforcing the idea that a person’s gayness is not something of which they should be ashamed.

What I love about Dumbledore being gay is that his sexual orientation becomes immaterial, which I believe is the goal.  We should be appreciated for our character and how we repair the world, rather than judged by with whom we fall in love.  Unfortunately, we are not even close to the goal of sexual orientation being immaterial, thus we must be visible and out!

Consequently, I cannot underscore enough how important it is that as we read the Harry Potter series and watch the movies, we keep in the back of our minds that the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the kind, sensitive, wise, caretaker Dumbledore is gay.  I, for one, am celebrating that fact.  Of course, I have to leave off with one of my favorite quotes from Dumbledore:

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. [and this one] No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,” said Dumbledore. “I do love knitting patterns.

There are still many other voices that need to be recognized and celebrated within the LGBT community.  I hope you will continue to look to TSM as we search out and spotlight LGBTQ voices that work for social justice and I hope TSM inspires us all to become activists–to eradicate racism, misogyny, homophobia, and bigotry.

%d bloggers like this: