Book Beat: Rowling’s Retroactive Inclusion and The Emilia Report

Hello, readers! And welcome back to Book Beat, our weekly roundup of book news and literary curiosities. This week, I’ve got some Harry Potter frustrations and a report on gender bias.

Rowling On Dumbledore’s Relationship with Grindlewald

RadioTimes recently dug up some comments from J.K. Rowling about the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Rather than delight, they have many fans shaking their heads (again).

The Harry Potter author said the two characters had an “intense” relationship that had a “sexual dimension.” Even so, that “passionate relationship” was not depicted in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and there hasn’t been any indication that it will appear in the rest of the series. Rowling herself said that she is “less interested in the sexual side” than she is in the “sense of the emotions they felt for each other.”

To many, this is just another retconning attempt at adding representation to the Harry Potter universe. As Flare points out, Rowling’s comments are problematic because not mentioning or displaying a character’s sexuality in the actual material—whether film or book—isn’t really representation at all.

Continually tweeting about inclusion without actually writing that inclusion into the text or script comes off as a clumsy attempt to profit from diversity rather than actually promote it. And it’s a real shame. There remains plenty of faithful fans that would be delighted to see the universe actually grow in a meaningful way. But many, many more are becoming seriously disenchanted. At this point, they’re just hoping Rowling will stop.

The Emilia Report Uncovers Book Coverage Bias

A new report has revealed the bias towards male writers in newspaper coverage. The report, named after England’s first published female poet Emilia Bassano, looked at ten male and female writers in the same market and found (not all that surprisingly) that men got 56% more review coverage. It also showed that female writers were more likely to have their ages referenced in coverage.

Rowan Coleman was one of the female writers interviewed for the report, according to The Guardian. Her book, The Summer of Impossible Things, only received three mentions in overall news coverage. Meanwhile, male writer Matt Haig, who writes in the same genre, had his book How to Stop Time mentioned 12 times across interviews, reviews, and news stories.

Coleman said she has never been reviewed by a broadsheet, despite her string of bestselling novels. She chalks it up to a culture of not taking women’s writing seriously. “For a man, writing is a career,” she said. “For a woman, so often her writing is treated like a hobby.”

This report isn’t the only one to reveal publishing’s gender bias. It follows last year’s Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society survey that found a 25% gap in earnings between male and female authors. While we can hope that these collective findings will lead to change, the report recommends directly challenging gender stereotypes on covers and asks editors to examine gender bias in review coverage.

Out This Week

Internment by Samira Ahmed
The Deepest Blue by Sara Beth Durst
Oksana, Behave! by Maria Kuznetsova
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Happy Thursday!