Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Image: St. Martin's Griffin.

Harry Potter References Removed from Bestselling Gay Romance Novel. Good.

While much of the news about Casey McQuiston’s bestselling 2019 novel Red, White, and Royal Blue has been about the casting due to Amazon Studios picking up the film rights, the novel is being discussed again in relation to a quiet change to recently printed and future editions. Five overt references to Harry Potter were removed in recent prints and digital copies. This change was likely due to the quadrupling down on transphobic activism by author J.K. Rowling. McQuiston themselves is nonbinary and is the exact person J.K. Rowling is joining the right-wing attack on.

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In addition to McQuiston’s own identity, the novel is about two young men (Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of a U.S. president running for reelection, and Prince Henry of the U.K.) that fall in love. Even if Mcquiston were cis or straight, the inclusion of references to Rowling’s work has made other members of the queer community very uncomfortable, having the success of a gay story come at the expense of real trans people.

Speaking of readers, most seem in favor of this switch. For one, the inclusion of contemporary pop-cultural references in novels is a turn-off for many readers, and a polarizing one at that. The cynics are buying a new copy and now have a pre-edit version that might be worth more in the future, like some misprints and first editions are today. Also, others expressed that Rowling’s work is hard to return to knowing she’s actively trying to remove trans people from society.

This change was caught on BookTok (TikTok for readers), where the #RedWhiteAndRoyalBlue and #RWRB tags feature over 120 million video hits each. Regarding the removal of Harry Potter references, McQuiston isn’t the first author to take this route. Authors Morgan York and Aaron H. Aceves spoke up about this being a trend among writers. Since there was no formal press release or anything announcing this, it’s unclear how many other things were changed between the novels. Some readers caught that a line about conflict in Israel had now changed to Norway, likely as a way to not downplay the Palestinian Apartheid.

McQuiston’s book will serve as a partial litmus test on how this can go forward with major publishers. As one of the most high-profile queer romance writers, with a movie coming out, they will show publishers that publishing existed before Rowling, and it can exist beyond her. Artists (including writers) and audiences give Rowling her power. Authors like McQuiston aren’t only resetting their contribution to it, but ensuring that unknowing readers don’t think they’re getting a gay romance at the expense of other marginalized groups.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

(via Twitter/TikTok, featured image: St. Martin’s Griffin)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.