Picking today’s Birthday Girl or Boy was probably one of the easiest tasks of the summer. Why? Because we can kill two birds with one stone just by celebrating the first bird’s birthday. Does that make any sense? Probably not. The point is this: Today is J.K. Rowling’s birthday — an exceptionally important day just on its own — and, on top of that, it’s also Harry Potter’s birthday. Sure, the Birthday Girl technically created the Birthday Boy, but that doesn’t make the day any less special. In fact, it makes it more special. Let’s move on. [home page pic: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images]
Despite her current status as a presumed billionaire, J.K. Rowling didn’t have the easiest life growing up: Born on July 31, 1967 — hey! that’s today! — Rowling had a troubled relationship with her father, and her mother was ill throughout Rowling’s childhood. Nonetheless, Rowling received solid marks throughout school and went on to study at the University of Exeter. (She was denied entry at Oxford, which we’re sure they regret quite a lot these days). After graduating, Rowling went on to work for Amnesty International as a researcher and a bilingual secretary.
But Rowling didn’t peacefully transition from her job at Amnesty International to becoming a world-famous author. No, she took an unexpected — and what turned out to be quite difficult — detour after moving to Portugal to teach English and falling in love with a man named Jorge Arantes. One year of marriage and one baby later, Rowling realized that Arantes was trouble and moved to Scotland with her daughter. It was at this point that Rowling hit rock bottom. She was without a job, without a husband, and had to take care of her young child. Yes, she had hit rock bottom. But when you’re that low, there’s nowhere to go but up.
A few years earlier — before she had met Arantes — Rowling had conjured up Harry Potter in her mind on a delayed train. As she puts it, “The idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head.” Ever since that moment, Rowling had been working on the creation of the children’s book. In 1995, in the midst of the most tenuous period of her life, Rowling finished the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The work was rejected by 12 different publishers before it was picked up by Bloomsbury. That’s a lot of rejection (and, like Oxford, they’re all probably feeling remarkably foolish at this point).
At first, only 1,000 copies were published, but then the awards started coming in. The debut novel won Nestle Smarties Book Prize and then the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. And, just like that, a world was born. The success of the Harry Potter series is unrivaled. The seventh and final book — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — was the fastest-selling book of all time (it sold 11 million copies in the first day of its release). Of course, we don’t need to fill you in on the popularity of the series or the subsequent films. We’re sure you’re well aware by now. The seven novels are must-haves on every child’s — and adult’s, for that matter — bookshelf, and, while not exceptionally loyal to the novels from which they came, the movies have received wildly popular reviews over the past few years.
Not many people know that the Harry Potter shares a birthday with his creator. But now you do, and that is all the more reason to celebrate on this wonderful day. Grab a copy of your favorite book in the series — our vote goes with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but whatever floats your boat — or pop in a copy of one of the DVDs — although that’s kind of a cop out because it’s the author’s birthday — and dive deep, deep into the magical world of Harry Potter.
Happy birthday to both Harry Potter and the marvelous J.K. Rowling!