In Defense of J.K. Rowling

I came across an interesting headline today from novelist Lynn Shepherd: “If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It”

I read the article and could not disagree more.

For starters, would she write this to Stephen King? Or Terry Pratchett? Or any other man who might have written more or for longer? Just imagine if someone told William Shakespeare to clear the air for a while.

I digress.

Shepherd writes that she’s upset that adults were reading the Harry Potter books instead of more intellectually stimulating material while in fact, she’s never read them.

I personally don’t believe that the worth of a piece is at all correlated with the easiness of the material. It’s the art of how they are told and the lessons within them that count.

For example, I would be surprised if a literary critic denied that The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is worth reading (seriously, go read it), yet its language and story is clearly geared towards children and is much more simple than the Harry Potter series. I sometimes re-read this book as an adult to remind myself of important lessons about love, greed, and listening to children. I am so openly in love with this book I even got The Little Prince board game for Christmas from my partner.

It’s also strange that she implies somehow that we are reading only J.K. Rowling at the expense of other authors. Sure, bands geared towards teens like One Direction dominate the musical sphere. But we wouldn’t accuse them of suffocating more “sophisticated” musicians. It’s all art. We are capable of consuming the work of more than one artist, writer, or musician. The more art we are exposed to, the more beautiful our lives become.

I didn’t read as much as I had hoped after college, but I recently read The Fault in Our Starsby John Green, which is a young adult novel. I laughed, cried, and hung onto every word. But something happened with that book. I finished it in a day and immediately started reading more books- many more geared towards adults, but a few good young adult novels, too. Far from the library I call home, I started going to one in DC. I felt like a child rediscovering reading for pleasure again, and kept reading more and more. I would be shocked if Harry Potter didn’t rekindle love affairs of reading for thousands of adults, who probably bought more books from other authors after they finished or between releases. 

Samantha Dolan reminded us of this quote on the piece’s Facebook thread from a great author:

 “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
― C.S. Lewis

I couldn’t agree more.

The Harry Potter series was completed while I was still in high school, but I find myself as an adult going back to stories from those pages. Sure, other books have had a more profound impact on my life, but I’m glad that I read them. If one of my adult friends told me they hadn’t read them yet, I would strongly encourage them to do so.

Keep writing if you’d like, J.K. Rowling. The world needs your voice and hopefully your work will remind others to seek out the work of other writers as well.

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