Let’s Start with Harry Potter

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I won’t get into too much detail on this one, because there is enough Harry Potter on the internet to last a million lifetimes. But I did want to put on paper just some of the reasons why Harry Potter became so close to my heart.

I was a shy, nerdy child. I didn’t spend a lot of time with others or make friends easily–these are stories you’ve heard by other loner children. We came to Harry because we liked reading and felt lonely and longed for a world more magical than our own. But me and Harry had something in common. When I was six months old, my mother died. In order to raise myself and my only slightly older brother, my dad and my grandmother each took one of us. I lived with my grandmother. We mostly kept to ourselves and I was the skinny kid with glasses who didn’t interact too much with the other kids. Sound familiar? And my whole life, everyone has told me I look just like my mother, so when Harry in equal parts revels and groans in the statement “You look just like James,” I commiserated. We all know the story of JK Rowling writing a lot of this series in reaction to her own mother passing away and what that did to the themes of the series, so Harry Potter hit a lot of personal nerves for me in terms of dealing with loss early on, feeling like you’re haunting your loved ones by looking like those who are gone, and feeling like you have to live up to the standards of a parent that everyone misses but you never got to meet. And that’s just how I felt about Harry.

What young, nerdy girl with curly hair didn’t feel like Hermione?! Girls all over the world identified with Hermione, that doesn’t really need documenting, but I must say that when I first read her character descriptions (and pronounced her name wrong), I thought she might have been black. As a young brown girl (in the tan range, but African-American nonetheless) with curly hair, freckles, and teeth problems, some of Hermione’s early descriptions felt like a girl who looked, if only a litle bit, like me (me and Emma Watson look nothing alike).

And then there’s Ron. Who suffers constantly with insecurities because he’s surrounded by people who he deems better and more talented than himself. Been there, done that. Again, it’s rare that no one has. But you can’t help but be struck by his loyalty and his commitment to being the friend of the hero. I was constantly seen as the tag-along, the friend of the social butterfly. So Ron’s role was one I knew well.

These are some deep connections to the characters, and that’s just the Trio! This doesn’t even delve into my enjoyment of magical worlds and mysteries and Jo’s twisty-turny storytelling, or that fact that I could hardly escape Pottermania even if I’d tried. So I delved right in and never looked back. Midnight releases and online forums. I’ve seen all the movies, despite being a staunch book purist– many of the book-to-movie changes still irk me to this day. But I’ve still seen them all, haven’t I? I’ve been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I bought a wand. I tried and gave up on Pottermore like most of you probably also did. And I stuck with my love of this one “children’s” book series, even when I shunned other children’s literature (at least in public).

Harry Potter proved it wasn’t just for kids and it made me realize that the best children’s literature isn’t just for kids. It should speak to adults as well, and the child that lives within adults. Children’s literature helps us recapture the wonder and joy and magic that we often lose in adulthood–and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

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