Joanne Rowling (born 31 July 1965), also known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author and philanthropist. She wrote a seven-volume children’s fantasy series, Harry Potter, published from 1997 to 2007. The series has sold over 500 million copies, been translated into at least 70 languages, and spawned a global media franchise including films and video games. The Casual Vacancy (2012) was her first novel for adults. She writes Cormoran Strike, an ongoing crime fiction series, as Robert Galbraith.
Born in Yate, Rowling graduated with a degree in French from the University of Exeter in 1987 and began working temp jobs as a bilingual secretary. In 1990, the idea for the characters of Harry Potter came to her while she waited on a delayed train; later that year, her mother died of multiple sclerosis. In the seven years before publication of the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), Rowling moved to Portugal, married, had a daughter, relocated to Scotland when her marriage failed, divorced, and earned a teaching certificate. She wrote while living on state assistance as a single parent, deeply affected by her mother’s death. By 2008, Forbes had named her the world’s highest-paid author.
Rowling concluded the Harry Potter series with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). The novels follow a boy called Harry Potter as he attends Hogwarts, a school for wizards, and battles Lord Voldemort. Death and the divide between good and evil are the central themes of the series. Its influences include: Bildungsroman (the coming-of-age genre), school stories, fairy tales, and Christian allegory. The series revived fantasy as a genre in the children’s market, spawned a host of imitators, and inspired an active fandom. Critical reception has been more mixed. Many reviewers see Rowling’s writing as conventional; some regard her portrayal of gender and social division as regressive. There were also religious debates over Harry Potter.
Rowling has won many accolades for her work. She has been appointed to the Order of the British Empire and made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for services to literature and philanthropy. Harry Potter brought her wealth and recognition that she has used to advance philanthropic endeavours and political causes. She co-founded the charity Lumos and established the Volant Charitable Trust, named after her mother. Rowling’s charitable giving centres on medical causes and supporting at-risk women and children. In politics, she has donated to Britain’s Labour Party and opposed Scottish independence and Brexit. Since late 2019, she has publicly expressed her opinions on transgender people and related civil rights. These have been criticised as transphobic by LGBT rights organisations and some feminists, but have received support from other feminists and individuals.