JK Rowling was a single mom, like me. She lived on pubic assistance. Her parents came from poverty and never went to college. Why should I envy her?
She was born in England. I’m supposed to have an English accent. My ancestry is vastly majority English. (I’m being somewhat silly here.)
She wrote a seven-book series that people adore, that’s a household name now.
But would it be worth it to gain such notoriety and praise, only to be reviled by statements she made that hurt people’s feelings and undermined a group that already battles to live the lives they choose and feel seen, accepted, validated? Does she hide now, thinking about this controversy every day and cringing? No amount of money would seem to make that worthwhile. I hate to think of Rowling’s name remaining under a cloud so that we don’t dare speak of her. Such situations need restorative justice, not to be left in an unresolved morass of tweets and counter-tweets.
I remember when I first saw a stack of Harry Potter books, in front of Border’s in San Rafael, CA. My kids were 10 and 12 in 1998, the perfect age for those books. My son and I read the first four together and I’ve never loved anything more than those times. My daughter, the older, had read voraciously since age five and gobbled them up herself. I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than to give others such pleasure.
Rowling lived in Edinburgh when she published the first Harry Potter. Two years later, I bought the 4th book (one of my favorites) almost the day it came out, at Waterstone’s in Edinburgh. I was so excited to buy it there that I asked the checker to write the date inside. It still has the price in pounds on the cover. I’ve bought two other UK versions, one in London; I like their covers better than the American.
Aother reason to envy Rowling—probably the one people would expect first—is that she has a lot of money. Enough to buy her childhood home, which is quite nice (see below). Clearly, without college education, her parents were able to provide handsomely. (She bought it for half a million—most houses in my area cost close to that so…)
Apparently the house inspired parts of Harry Potter, such as the cupboard under the Dursley’s stairs. People have figured out where the house is (not hard now, with pics online telling the very street it’s on). People were walking right up to the door before Rowling even bought it back. What would it be like to live there? Are drones hovering over the yard to catch impromptu photos? Does she ever stay there?
Fame comes at a price, with harassment and unpleasant lawsuits, etc… There are definitely downsides I would not envy. Rowling has also had tragedy in her life, with the early death of her mother. She’s suffered depression. I admire that she’s giving so much to charity, making all of the proceeds of some books go to causes such as single parents and multiple sclerosis. She supports labor and is outspoken about it. I can tell in the Harry Potter books that she’s not enthralled with aspects of capitalism.
Any time we envy success, or envy at all, there are other sides. I’m not a hoarder, nor even much of a consumer. I don’t envy or admire wealth per se. What I would like most, someday, is to feel that there are people who enjoy my books even a fraction as much as I’ve enjoyed hers. (And I wouldn’t mind having that “cottage”!)