THINKING OUT LOUD

Published:  03:40 AM, 15 September 2019

What's in her name?


When Joanne Rowling wrote her a novel about a boy and magic, she could hardly find any publisher to publish it. We all know that story. Joanne Rowling's life till now can easily be a handbook of inspiration for any budding writer; be it a man or woman. Why did the publishers reject her book? Most of them thought it was too slow and long for children.

Young boys and witchcraft? Please! Who would be interested in the sports then? And look who is writing that! A woman! Joanne? What a joke! The comments above are fictional, but I when heard the reason behind the rejections, some twelve years back, I had this exact streak of conversation running almost immediately and not to mention, automatically, in my head.

I was a lot younger then, without much of an idea about how the world works. I still can't understand why I had this particular kind of imaginary commentary inside my head! Uncanny, isn't it?However, Joanne finally got a chance from the Bloomsbury Press, sometime in October, 1996.

So, before the release of the first book celebrates its 20 years in 2017 (you all feel old, right?), I would like to celebrate the one of many first steps taken for a history in the making. Joanne must have been relieved that it finally happened. Phew! But no, there was more.

The publishers thought it would be "better" if she uses a pen name that looks and sounds more "manly", as young boys, who are at the age of developing characters and personalities, under parents who are opting for the same, might not be looking up to a "Joanne" talking about witchcraft. Who would want that?So the solution was to make the name sound more gentleman-ish with the first two initials followed by a surname, which sounds manly enough.

There was this tiny-winy problem, Joanne, a divorced single mother by then, had no middle name given at birth. Only one initial doesn't sound good enough! They had the solution. They decided to insert an imaginary middle name with Joanne's "J", and she chose her grandmother's name "Kathleen".

And then they formed the most talked about pen names in the recent times, if not of all times, J. K. Rowling!I have always tried to imagine what she must have felt, when she got a new identity to finally turn her long hard work into reality.

How was she coping with that; what was in her mind! Was she happy, was she excited, was she in fear and anxiety? Maybe she doesn't remember it anymore! Or maybe, she can never forget!There was another writer, among many others, who changed to a pen name to write and publish her work-- Mary Ann Evans. She was widely known by her nom de plume, George Eliot. She was born in November 22, 1819. She would have been 197 years old now. Mary Ann Evans opted for pen name for different reasons, mostly.

She was from the Victorian era, which obviously saw a sudden bloom of seasoned female writers like never before, but she still chose to be addressed otherwise. Her reason was simple and understandable, to be taken seriously! She wasn't into the petty romantic stuff that she thought her contemporary women were writing and being admired for.

She was different; she was writing "radical" things, including politics, and she wanted to be heard and read. She did not want to be dismissed for her opinions just because she had a feminine name. Plus, she also wanted people to focus on her work only, not her personal life.

Mary Ann Evans would have been 180 years old when Joanne was asked to alter her name to be taken seriously. It was 20 years ago. People took both George Eliot and J. K. Rowling seriously; very seriously, particularly the latter one!

Would they have done the same for Mary Ann and Joanne, too?Would you?Don't you find it problematic? Do you think it has changed? Can it change?
Can it?


The writer is a critic and writer doing higher studies abroad

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