Are You A Harry Potter Fan And Trans Ally? How To Be Both When J.K. Rowling Is Transphobic

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J.K. Rowling keeps doubling-down on her transphobic rhetoric, most recently by sharing a Twitter thread referring to hormone therapy and puberty blockers as ‘the new conversion therapy’.

It’s clear that Rowling has never spoken to a single trans person, never mind a transgender child who she claims she wants to protect. Paris Lees invited her to meet trans kids and discuss her views, but so far I’ve not heard that Rowling has taken her up on this kind offer.

Rowling also uses misleading information to make her points; for example, she points to an isolated case of a clinic that is under investigation for not supporting transitioning children properly, and rather than suggesting that greater support is given to trans children, she continues to defend her views that access to hormone therapy should be even more restricted than it already is.

Given that trans people are under the intense threat of violence and even death, you’d think that an author who’s works inspired millions of children to become better adults and be accepting, would be more supportive of this marginalised community.

For those of us who grew up adoring the Harry Potter series, this latest evidence that Rowling is showing herself to be incredibly transphobic is deeply troubling. This must be especially tough for trans and non-binary fans, who must feel dejected and abandoned by an author who, quite possibly, originally inspired them to be their authentic selves.

After all, Harry Potter is all about being yourself and support those who are different. It’s about enjoying the richness that diversity brings, rather than punishing uniqueness and individuality. It’s about supporting those who rebel against injustice.

So, for Rowling to come out with these disgusting statements, which are filled with misinformation and designed to inspire hate, rather than support, all while using her privileged position and past experiences such as her sexual assault to prompt her hateful ideology, it’s understandable that many fans are heartbroken.

As a Harry Potter fan myself, as well as a dedicated ally to the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve wrestled with a lot of mixed feelings over the past few days.

Clearly, I’m not alone in this: many fans have condemned Rowling over her comments. Most notably, two of the biggest Harry Potter fan sites out there, Mugglenet and the Leaky Cauldron, issued a joint statement denouncing Rowling over her hateful comments.

For the Leaky Cauldron, this appears to be a genuine attempt to show solidarity with the trans community; however, the founder of Mugglenet was the one who initially spawned Rowlings latest comments by tweeting support for her and claiming that, despite everything she has said, she’s not transphobic. As such, it remains to be seen if Mugglenet’s part in the statement was just lip service designed to placate fans.

After much soul searching and consideration, I’ve reached a conclusion; being a Harry Potter fan doesn’t make you transphobic.

It just means that you have to support trans rights even more than you love Harry Potter. Show your support for the trans community loudly and proudly at any time you can to make it clear that you’re an ally despite the views of the author of your favourite kid’s books.

One bookshop is donating to trans children’s charity Mermaids for every sale of a Harry Potter book, so consider buying your copy from there if you ever need to replenish your collection. Alternatively, you could donate to Mermaids yourself, or check out any of these worthy causes that support trans people and help make the world a safer place for them.

You should also constantly rebel against transphobia and the abuse of trans or non binary people wherever you see it. Whether it’s online, or in a conversation, you should show your support for the trans community.

Additionally, you should also try to read more books written by trans authors and watch more shows and films that are created by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Read some books by trans and non binary authors, and watch films created by trans people, not just about them. I’d recommend the Laverne Cox Disclosure as a starting point; it’s a great way to learn more about the representation of trans people in film and popular culture from the point of view of the trans community.

At the end of the day, it’s tough to deal with the revelation that an author who inspired you as a kid is transphobic, especially during these already challenging times. Just keep supporting trans rights, and remember that if Harry Potter has taught us anything, it is that supporting those who are marginalised is a noble cause that you should take great pride in, no matter who stands against you.

And, if you’re really feeling low, just remember that Arthur Weasley would adore you and be impressed with your Muggle skills: you’re using a computer!

2020 Is The Summer Of Crime Fiction

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the world has gone to shit.

Between Trump, Brexit, murder hornets, the Coronavirus and the shocking way that some world leaders are handling it, police brutality and institutional racism, it’s all going down the pan.

The whole world is dealing with a pandemic and an economic crisis of epic proportions, not to mention additional genocides, political coups and general mismanagement from so called ‘leaders’ which are occurring on a daily basis in countries around the globe. All of that can be wearying for even the most stoic of individuals.

With that in mind, you need to transport yourself to a better world, while still keeping yourself alert and not completely disappearing into a fairy tale.

While books from your childhood can help you to soothe your worries, a good thriller is just what you need to transport you away from the madness and give you something to really think about.

Also, there are loads of great new thrillers out there for you to check out. If you haven’t already read Mark EllisFrank Merlin series, then I’d recommend it. Start from the beginning, or, if you’re already a fan, check out the latest instalment, A Death In Mayfair.

For anyone who loves spy thrillers, then James McCrone has a new one out called Emergency Powers. Without spoiling my upcoming review, it’s an amazing, gripping thriller that I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes spy novels, particularly governmental ones.

If classics are where you’re at, then why not try reading Raymond Chandler’s work, or buy a copy of the Sherlock Holmes short story collection. With new adaptations coming out all the time, including one on Netflix shortly, there has never been a better time than now to start brushing up and enjoying these amazing tales.

Whatever you choose to read, make it something gripping and informative that keeps you on your toes. If you read too much comfort literature, then you might find yourself slipping into complacency, so read a little crime fiction to keep your mind sharp.

Black Lives Matter: If You Don’t Get It, Fucking Read And Educate Yourself!

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The Black Lives Matter protests, in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other innocent black people, look set to change the world for the better.

As a white person, I can never understand what the BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) community is going through, but I’m trying my best to be a supportive ally.

One thing I, as a white person, have noticed is that other white people keep asking members of the BAME community to explain what’s going on to them.

That is fucking stupid.

It’s not the BAME community’s job to educate you. You’ve got the whole internet at your fingertips, not to mention books, documentaries, blogs, podcasts and more, all explaining the history of racism and white supremacy.

I see it myself all the time; white guys I went to university with demanding explanations for stuff that they could learn about for themselves like sexism and why I hate the President of the USA.

Recently, a guy I went to school with commented on a Facebook post asking me to prove that Donald Trump’s photo op at that church, where he cleared a congregation to take a picture waving a bible, was real. Like he couldn’t read the news for himself.

And that’s just me dealing with douche bags I went to school with; if I’m irritated, it must only be 10 million times worse for the BAME community.

Don’t get me wrong; if the BAME people you know want to talk to you about the protests or their experiences, then listen, support them and ask questions if you need to. Be a good friend and ally.

Just don’t expect them to educate you and prove to you that racism exists.

If you don’t know or understand what’s going on right now, or why these protests matter so much, then read about it- don’t put the burden on your friends.

There are loads of free resources, blogs and websites online that will help you to understand the importance of this movement, including:

You could also read books like:

  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s Strength to Love

  • Literally anything by Maya Angelou

  • Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father

  • Michelle Obama’s Becoming

  • Zadie Smith’s On Beauty

  • Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider 

  • Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things

  • Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

  • Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave

  • Wesley Lowery’s They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement

  • Anchee Min’s The Last Empress

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah

  • Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race (the title is apt given the topic of this blog post)

  • Toni Morrison’s Beloved

These aren’t exhaustive lists; go out there and read as widely as possible. The world is evolving and you’re living through history- put some fucking effort in and learn about what’s going on!

Try to read books written by as many BAME authors as possible, so you can find out about different perspectives without being an annoying dick to the people you know.

So, in all, be a supportive friend and learn for your fucking self. I’m not asking you to do much, just read and learn without having to make your friends, who are already in turmoil and living in a bloody strange world, educate you like you’re a small child. Read and learn like the responsible adult you’re pretending to be.

Sooth Your Worries With Books From Your Childhood

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Just a quick disclaimer to start- I’m not in any way suggesting that rereading children’s’ stories will fix your problems or mental health. If you’re struggling severely, then consult your doctor.

That said, I do think that in these uncertain times, anyone who is finding it hard to contend with the ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in could benefit from revisiting the stories they loved as a child.

Personally, I’m rereading Winnie The Pooh and The House On Pooh Corner to give myself a sense of balance. I’m not even in a bad situation; I’m lucky enough to have a stable job, great colleagues, lovely friends and a safe home. Despite that, it’s still a tough time for everyone right now, and with my anxiety levels rising I’m enjoying the comfort that comes from rereading books I adored as a kid.

Most children’s books centre around overcoming adversity and learning how to adapt around the strange, changing circumstances that are growing up. They also share the messages we need to hear right now- that the world is a big and scary place, in which we can all live happily.

There are also nice pictures and a calm rhythm, making children’s books a great way to feel better even during these challenging times. It can be hard to deal with the traumatic events occurring right now, so these books can not only take you back to a simpler time, when you were a kid, but also make you feel relaxed and calm.

So, if you’re feeling out of sorts thanks to the current crisis, consider revisiting an old favourite from your childhood. It doesn’t matter how young the target audience for your chosen reading material is, as long as it makes you happy and calm. Just try it out if you’re in need of a little rejuvenation even as the lockdowns start to lift; the world isn’t going back to normal in a hurry, so put your health and mental wellbeing first and do whatever you can to start feeling better.

Why We Need More Female Spy Writers

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Recently I reviewed The Treadstone Resurrection, a brilliant novel that forms part of the Jason Bourne universe.

The book is gripping and enticing, but it lacks one crucial element; the presence of any realistic female characters.

Even in the male-dominated security landscape, women still play a vital role, and if you’re describing just about any scenario then it will doubtless include numerous women.

What this novel lacked was women who were anything more than mindless lovers. They were all obsessed with the men they were connected to, and as such were simply an extension of them.

In real life, women are much more complicated and actually have free will and independent thoughts. I have never met, or heard of, or witnessed, a woman unbuttoning her blouse in the presence of a man she fancied. Yet that’s genuinely a scene from The Treadstone Resolution! 

If you really think about it, most of the women in popular spy novels and movies are either eye-candy or staff. James Bond is one of the best examples I can think of; in the books, his women either sleep with him or mother him. In the films, it’s pretty much the same story.

The reason that these books are all utterly clueless about women is because they are, pretty much, all written by men. The spy novel genre is dominated by men, and if we want to enjoy reading about better female characters in spy novels, then that’s going to have to change.

As women are great readers of spy novel and thrillers, and big readers in general, we should be able to get a foothold in this market, but when you visit a bookshop and check out the spy thriller section, you’ll see a noticeable absence of female names. We’re able to work a wide range of jobs now, and female authors have made big names for themselves in the writing arena, but unfortunately the spy thriller genre remains a male-dominated space.

Women have started to make headway, but that doesn’t mean that things are perfect. We still need more women to write spy novels, and for publishers to push their books with the same verve and vigour as they do the latest John Le Carré.

By encouraging women writers to tackle the spy thriller genre, publishers could also help women readers to enjoy it more.

After all, one of the biggest barriers for many women who are eager to tuck into a new thriller is the lack of believable, relatable female characters. It was literally the only criticism I had of The Treadstone Resurrection, which was otherwise an amazing and gripping read.

So, in summary, I’m eager for more women to write and publish spy thrillers. For a major, meaningful change to happen in the industry, the publishing market needs to open its mind and start welcoming and encouraging more women to write books in this genre.

In the meantime, if you or know of a female spy thriller writer, or a male one who writes great depictions of female characters, then reach out and I’d be happy to work with you to promote your work. I think it’s valuable to have lots of great representation of women in this market, so I’m always here to support writers and help them grow their readerships.

Happy Fourth Birthday To The Dorset Book Detective

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It’s been four years since I started the Dorset Book Detective! Things have changed a lot over that time, but what hasn’t changed is my love of reading and passion for supporting authors.

These are scary times, and writers are struggling, like many of us, to make ends meet and keep going while the world is in lockdown.

Help them as much as you can by finding new, budding authors and buying their books. Through interviews, book reviews and social media shares I hope to do my small bit to help, and you can too!

So, just to say look after authors and thank you for continuing to support the Dorset Book Detective! Take care of yourself and stay safe.

5 Non-Fiction Books About Animals You’ll Enjoy If You Loved Tiger King

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If, like me, you’ve been desperately trying to keep yourself sane during the lockdown, then you’ve probably been searching for new books to read and shows to binge watch.

One show you can’t have failed to notice is Tiger King, the documentary that quickly turned into a cult, non-fiction soap opera. It was meant to be a big cat version of Blackfish, the documentary about captive killer whales in SeaWorld and how their poor treatment at the amusement parks has led to psychological problems that caused them to attack and, in some cases, kill, the trainers who get in the water with them.

However, Tiger King is more about the individuals involved in America’s booming captive big cat trade than it is about the animals themselves. It tells the story of a mad roadside zookeeper, who twice tried to hire a hit man to kill a rival, who is also a former big cat breeder who now runs a slightly sketchy ‘sanctuary’.

In the course of exposing this crime, the filmmakers also touch on the disappearance of the target’s former husband and other big players in America’s booming big cat and exotic pet trades, including a serial bigamist and the new owner of the zoo, who loves to parade his cats around Vegas and use them as status symbols to attracts impressionable young women and punters at some of the strip’s famous casinos.

The show spawned a host of memes and mad theories, but it didn’t really tell you a lot about big cats. If you love animals, and are keen to enjoy a thrilling tale that taught you about them, then here are 5 non-fiction books about animals that will keep your mind active during the lockdown. They combine the absurdity of the individuals in these markets with factual information about the animals they own, giving you the chance to learn in a way you simply couldn’t when watching Tiger King.

5. H Is For Hawk: Equal parts memoir and discussion of hawk husbandry, in H Is For Hawk Helen Macdonald tells the story of her quest to tame Goshawk Mabel following the death of her father. A celebrated historian and experienced bird trainer, Macdonald walks readers through the history of training birds of prey for hunting as she dissects her own personal struggle to tame the hawk and her own conflicting feelings.

4. Taking Shergar: Exploring one of the racing world’s most baffling criminal cases, Taking Shergar: Thoroughbred Racing’s Most Famous Cold Case reads like a thriller, combing common knowledge about this renowned crime with insider secrets about the close-knit horse racing world. Writer Milton C. Toby takes readers through the entire case in extraordinary detail, going through all of the suspects and the incredible reasons why the crime was never solved and the remains never found.

3. The Lizard King: With a name so similar to Tiger King, this is a great choice for avid fans of the series who really wanted to find out not only about the people involved in the inhumane practice of keeping animals, but the affects that captivity can have on the creatures in their ‘care’. In this case, the subject under discussion is not big cats, but reptiles. In The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers Bryan Christy shows readers the sordid criminal underbelly behind the exotic reptile trade in America, and how a federal agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set out on an obsessive quest to take down some of this shady market’s biggest players. As gripping as it is informative, the book is almost as strange as Tiger King, only with smaller, but no less dangerous and majestic, animals.

2. Cuddle Me, Kill Me: Written by experienced animal rights campaigner Richard Peirce Cuddle Me, Kill Me: From Bottle To Bullet – A True Account of South Africa’s Captive Lion Industry exposes the inhumane treatment of the lion cubs that are bred to be cuddled, and then brutally disposed of when they get too big to pose alongside. Often they end up being used for ‘canned hunting’, a barbaric practice where the cats are sold to hunters so they can shoot them in a controlled environment and then mount the carcases as trophies. Peirce pulls no punches as he shares the facts about these horrific practices and how, behind the veneer of animal care, the centres that breed these cubs are focused purely on profit, with no regards the cats in their care.

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1. Death At SeaWorld: Following on from the success of the documentary Blackfish, Death At SeaWorld: Shamu And The Dark Side Of Killer Whales In Captivity walks readers through the horrific world of killer whale capture and the industry regulated practices that resulted in at least 4 deaths and many more serious injuries to trainers. Writer David Kirby uses court records, eyewitness testimony and interviews with former trainers to create a book that reads like a thriller. He compassionately explains the difference between wild killer whale habits and behaviours and the artificial lives they are forced to lead in amusement parks, and how this has led to psychological and physical issues for the whales and those who care for them.

Easter Greetings From The Dorset Book Detective

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Happy Easter!

I know these are strange times, but Easter is still a great time to relax, unwind and, most importantly of all, eat a ton of chocolate without feeling guilty!

As you’re stuck at home, the weather is lovely and most bookstores are still offering online services, there has never been a better time than now to read all those books you’ve put off.

Whether it’s that bloody long one you’ve never thought you’d finish, or the spur of the moment buy you’re not sure you’ll enjoy, go ahead and get your teeth into some reading, and some chocolate, this Easter. You deserve it! Stay safe and thanks for continuing to support my blog.

Entertain Your Kids During Lockdown By Giving Them Books To Read

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It’s official: the British public are bellends, and we’re now not allowed to go outside because we can’t be trusted not to congregate and generally behave like twats.

Because of just a small handful of idiots, everyone in the country has to stay indoors. For some, this might seem like a blissful chance to catch up on some rest, and your favourite TV show.

Not for parents. If you’ve got kids under 18 in your house, then chances are you’re stuck trying to teach them shit you’d long forgotten and keep them from driving you mental. For those with younger kids, it’s even worse, because they can’t be left alone and need constant stimulation.

One great way to combine educating them and getting them to stop harassing you for snacks and attention is to give them a book to read. Find a book on a topic they enjoy and it’ll shut them up for hours.

Even the most adventurous of children can be placated with an engaging story. You might have to read it to little ones, but it’ll keep them still and stop them yelling for a bit, which is always a bonus!

When I first started reading, I was obsessed with the Alex Cross stories, and, of course, Harry Potter.

Those books would keep me quite for days, so much so that my parents used to take them away and order me outside because they thought I was sad. Now I’d give anything to be ordered outdoors, but there you fucking go.

The point I’m trying to make is that books are both education and fun for kids, making them a great alternative to plonking them in front of the TV or driving yourself crackers trying to think up engaging activities to entertain them with over the coming weeks.

There’s evidence that kids who are read to at a young age and introduced to books have a significantly higher vocabulary than children who aren’t read to. This increased vocabulary can give your child many advantages in their future education, and you’ve never had an opportunity like this before, nor are you likely to again, to get them into reading.

Reading is also great for boosting imagination and introducing your kid to new ideas, meaning there’s literally no downside. Books are also easy to come by, since so many online retailers sell them and you’ve usually got a stack at home already that they’ve always been too busy to read.

Now’s the perfect time to push them away from the snack cupboard and into the waiting arms of a good book. You won’t regret it.