J. K. Rowling Biography

J. K. Rowling is the pen name for Joanne Rowling, the author of the seven enormously popular Harry Potter children’s fantasy novels that were published between 1997 and 2007. Born in 1965 in Yate, in Gloucestershire, England, Rowling began her career in the early 1990s, writing on restaurant napkins and drinking cups of espresso while her newborn baby daughter, Jessica, slept at her side. Recently divorced and living on welfare, Rowling could not afford to properly heat her small apartment, nor could she buy a word processor, so she instead spent her days in cafes and wrote nearly all of her first novel by hand. The result of Rowling’s work, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K.), was passed over by numerous publishers, each believing it to be too long, too complex, and far too slow.

Eventually, in 1996, British publisher Bloomsbury Press bought the book, and Rowling’s career exploded almost overnight upon its publication the following year. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone set record sales, made literary history, and changed the way children read forever. Quickly, Rowling began gathering prestigious awards. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was eventually named Children’s Book of the Year at the 1997 British Book Awards, and in 1998 the book was pronounced Best Book of the Year by both Parenting magazine and the New York Public Library and deemed one of the best books of 1998 by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist.

Each of Rowling’s six subsequent books in the Harry Potter series—Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (2007)—was met with a intense anticipation and a rapturous response with fans of the books often waiting in long lines as each book published and then reading them start to finish as quickly as possible. It is difficult to imagine this literary phenomenon being repeated.

Still, Rowling had to contend with considerable backlash, particularly from Christian groups who contend that the series’ pagan imagery is dangerous to their children. Starting in 1999, the Harry Potter books sat atop the American Library Association’s list of most protested books, with some American churches banning the books altogether. Rowling has cited her inspiration for the series as the idea that we could have a child who escapes from the confines of the adult world and goes somewhere where he has power, both literally and metaphorically. Consequently, many of the books’ supporters argue that the idea of a child controlling his own destiny, making profound choices, and learning to control his environment is what frightens parents, and it is not necessarily the occult implications that have led to the books’ controversial reception.

The Harry Potter books were licensed for a series of immensely successful Warner Brothers films. In March 2001, Rowling received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) medal of achievement from Queen Elizabeth II of England. She married her second husband, Dr. Neil Murray, later that same year. Rowling’s immense success has guaranteed her a secure spot in the literary canon.

Long a strong supporter of liberal and progressive causes and politicians, Rowling’s reputation among some—including many long-time Harry Potter devotees—has taken a sharp hit since the late 2010s due to statements she has made about transgender people and policies that her critics have declared to be transphobic. Others have come to Rowling’s defense, pointing out that many of the comments directed at her in the wake of the controversy are tantamount to hate speech.

J. K. Rowling Quotes

The wizards represent all that the true "muggle" most fears: They are plainly outcasts and comfortable with being so. Nothing is more unnerving to the truly conventional than the unashamed misfit!

The world is full of wonderful things you haven’t seen yet. Don’t ever give up on the chance of seeing them.

We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.

J. K. Rowling Novels

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Published 1997

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Published 1998

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Published 1999

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Published 2000

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Published 2003

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Published 2005

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Published 2007

J. K. Rowling Short Fiction

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Published 2001

Quidditch Through the Ages

Published 2001

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Published 2008

The Casual Vacancy

Published 2012