Just when I think J.K. Rowling can’t get any more controversial, she surprises me yet again. Using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, Rowling dropped a new novel on Aug. 30. No, it’s not set in the Harry Potter universe. It isn’t another murder mystery either, like The Casual Vacancy. The plot of Rowling’s latest story, The Ink Black Heart, is more twisted than even He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named himself. What’s worse, it feels eerily familiar. (This post includes spoilers for The Black Ink Heart, so if that bothers you, here is your warning.)
The Ink Black Heart follows Edie Ledwell, a popular animator on YouTube. Ledwell finds herself on the brink of cancellation after posting an ableist, racist, and transphobic cartoon on her channel. As Rolling Stone details, Edie begins to receive death threats from her former fans. Apparently, the story ends (more than 1,000 pages later) with a “troll” murdering the cartoonist.
Where have I heard this story before? People on social media have pointed out that the story seems very much like Rowling’s — and that her new novel is a ploy to paint herself as the victim. Over the past few years, Rowling has been called out for making transphobic and homophobic comments online. On Twitter in June 2020, she suggested “real” women are only “people who menstruate.” Rowling made a statement in August 2020 on her website stating, “As a longstanding donor to LGBT charities and a supporter of trans people’s right to live free of persecution, I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill.”
However, Rowling’s transphobic comments didn’t stop there. To further invalidate trans people, in September 2020, Rowling promoted a store that, according to Daily News, sells “Transwomen are men” and “Trans-ideology erases women” buttons. Her Campus reached out to Rowling’s team for comment but didn’t hear back by the time of publication.
Rowling’s list of wrongdoings doesn’t end there. The Harry Potter series is full of antisemetic and racial stereotypes, including house elves who are seemingly content with their enslavement. Just look at the names she gives her POC characters — who, by the way, are very few in number. (Her Campus reached out to Rowling’s team about this, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.) The lack of representation in the wizarding world is appalling. Over a decade after the release of the last Harry Potter book, Rowling’s exclusivity remains a prevalent issue.
Clearly, the criticism Rowling receives is well-deserved — but what’s unfortunate is Rowling’s refusal to take accountability for her actions. Many early reactions to The Ink Black Heart address Rowling’s victimhood. On Twitter, people have vocalized their concerns about the ending of the book — specifically, on how it negates the real-life murders of trans individuals. Other people point out how, rather than acknowledging the horrific rates of violence against trans people, Rowling pins herself as the target of hate and cruelty. The word “TERF” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) pops up in several TikTok reactions, calling Rowling out for her fake allyship and ignorance.
So far, The Ink Black Heart has received mixed reviews on Goodreads. While some show their support for Rowling, others criticize both her writing and privileged perspective on receiving “hate.” With the negative reviews rising on Goodreads, a large number of people who’ve read the book refuse to silence their concerns. It’s safe to say that Rowling’s magic is gone for many.