While a Christian mother of four, Laura Mallory, calls Harry Potter "evil," blames the influence of his books for school shootings, and tries to get the young wizard banned from her suburban Atlanta school district, J.K. Rowling's Potter series was named the "most challenged" books of the 21st century by the American Library Association in conjunction with Banned Books Week.
Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness; and the ALA reports there were more than 3,000 attempts to remove books from schools and public libraries between 2000 and 2005 – over 3000 times where "I don't approve of this" turned into "This shouldn't be available."
ALA president Leslie Burger said, "Throughout history, there always have been a few people who don't want information to be freely available. And this is still true." Those wild-eyed librarians are out there on the battle lines fighting to keep controversial viewpoints available to all – God love 'em.
In addition to taking the honors for most challenged, the vastly popular Potter series, with over 300 million books sold throughout the green earth, was also voted favorite from among all challenged books by readers in an online ALA poll.
Harry Potter has sort of a George Washington primacy: "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Maintaining her usual public equanimity, series author J.K. Rowling — the billionaire mother of three who lives in Perthshire, Scotland — wrote on her website last week, "Once again, the Harry Potter books feature on this year's list of most-banned books. As this puts me in the company of Harper Lee, Mark Twain, J. D. Salinger, William Golding, John Steinbeck and other writers I revere, I have always taken my annual inclusion on the list as a great honour. 'Every burned book enlightens the world.' – Ralph Waldo Emerson."
Interesting – Emerson's full quote enlightens further as to his meaning: "Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side." The very act of burning or suppressing calls attention to that being suppressed.
Foolish mortals – as if Harry Potter needs any more attention.
Apparently feeling particularly loquacious and taking a break from her labors on the dreaded Book Seven, Rowling, as she is prone to do from time to time, also gave fans a little snapshot of her mind at creative work with another message that same day on her site.
"Sitting at my desk trying to invent a word yesterday brought back memories of the last time I did so," she wrote. "I had tried for days and days to hit upon the right name for 'the receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a fragment of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality.' Finally, after much transposition of syllables, I scribbled 'Horcrux' on a piece of paper and knew it was The One."
The woman takes this stuff seriously – that's how one creates a palpable alternative world.
She continued, "But what if somebody had already used it? With some trepidation I typed 'Horcrux' into Google and, to my delight, saw what I was looking for: 'Your search – "Horcrux" – did not match any documents.' So anyway, yesterday I Googled 'Horcrux' again. 401,000 results. As you might imagine, this gave me something of a lift as I went back to scribbling nonsense words on the back of a takeaway menu," she concluded.
A large part of Rowling's charm is her humility in the face of virtually unprecedented mass adulation. Who has more fans? Jesus? Allah? She is not afraid to let fans see a bit of the process in action; to let them see it is work, real labor, and not just something that arrives whole through her magical fingertips.