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Hogwarts in America (New at Reason)

Friday, November 18, 2016 9:45
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antastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Harry Potter fans rejoiced at the news that J.K. Rowling was about to publish a new epic trilogy of books. But in the December 2016 issue of Reason, Amy Sturgis writes that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them suffers from Rowling’s shaky knowledge of North American history:

The controversy over appropriation is a symptom of a larger problem. Rowling simply doesn’t appreciate how much she doesn’t know about North America. The woman who created the wizarding world (as opposed to the wizarding nation) appears to believe that, because she knows Great Britain, she also knows the other side of the Atlantic. Her new writings, plagued by what seem to be unexamined colonialist and nationalist assumptions, prove otherwise. Rowling’s stumbles are particularly surprising and disappointing given that in her YouTube featurette “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A New Hero,” she proclaims that “people who feel set apart, stigmatized, or othered” are “at the heart of most of what I write.”

Where the Harry Potter series constantly subverted and reimagined the classic—but politically retrograde—British coming-of-age schooldays novels, Rowling’s new works on North America underscore her intellectual and imaginative blind spots, slapping vaguely American Indian window dressing on an otherwise unchanged Hogwarts-style institution, ignoring or running roughshod over both the continent’s politically charged and sometimes tragic past and its complex and multi-layered present, and utterly failing North American History 101 in the bargain.

In short, it’s clear that this time the real-life Hermione Granger didn’t do her homework.

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