When I was a child I refused to follow things that were popular. Absolutely refused. I was a bit of a stubborn girl as my mother would surely tell you if you asked her. And that contributed greatly to my choices of what I read and watched and participated in. I tended to be free thinking, wanting to enjoy my own interests without interruption from my peers. There is something both amusing and admirable when I picture my younger self stamping her foot over people encouraging her to pursue something utterly mainstream. So my reading choices tended to largely be books of my own choosing. But being an avid reader I had already begun my lifelong problem of having recommendations. And like all readers the popular books are always recommended first and foremost.
So began my lifelong dance with popular literature. And in particular, Harry Potter.
Second grade was where I largely blossomed into a reader. I became capable of reading to myself, and that development was troubling to behold. I snuck books under desks to read during class and slipped a flashlight into bed with me to keep going on my latest pursuit. And in second grade Harry Potter had just begun to become a phenomenon particularly prevalent in my age group just as I was beginning to figure out the wonderful world of books.
I was absolutely against Harry Potter to a degree where I wouldn’t even talk about the subject. To be honest, I had little idea of what Harry Potter was only that my peers greatly admired it, and therefore I wanted nothing to do with it. Of course everything changed when I went off to France for a semester with my family the next year.
Isolation tends to make me gravitate all the more towards books. And in France I was homeschooled and since I didn’t speak the language had no chance to interact with other children. So, home was my solitude and books kept me busy. But books in English were not so readily available in our small town. And in the library there were few choices. With most of the books already finished I turned to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (they had the British version) to occupy my time. There was much irony in my caving as I had thrown a fit over a Harry Potter journal I’d been given before going to France. But Harry followed me across the world, and it seemed I was incapable of fully escaping even in a foreign country.
My mother read book one aloud to my brother and I. Within the first few pages my resistance melted away, and I was helpless to do anything else but enjoy. We devoured the first and second books together and even enjoyed watching the newly released first movie on the plane ride back to America.
While I could sit and ramble about how amazing the books and movies are, I would prefer to speak more personally about them. Because that little lonely boy in the cupboard under the stairs sparked something deep in me that I had never known before. And that was a desire to write.
I began with copying J.K. Rowling’s ideas, making a school for fairies rather than wizards and creating an orphan character as my protagonist. I remember little about that initial series, but I remember it being the first of my inspiration and that it paved the way for later books to come. Something in Rowling’s works made me come alive and gave me a desire to emulate Harry Potter in changing children’s lives through story. I think if nothing else those books gave me hope of something better, of a world filled with love and light, and in the dark years ahead of me those messages continued to remain both a prevalent part of my worldview and my own writing.
You would think Harry would have cured me of my desire to be unique in my entertainment choices, but to this day I still do meet some resistance when faced with something popular. I’ve certainly become better, but it is a fault I have to work to correct.
Today I’m a total nerd when it comes to Harry Potter. I know what house I’m in (Hufflepuff), know what character has the same Myers Briggs personality (Neville), know what wand I would have (12 1/2 in. cedar dragon heartstring), and even own a copy of Luna Lovegood’s wand from the movie along with two of the books (one in French which I can now read and one in English).
Yes, I’m a nerd, and I love it, and anytime I think about Harry Potter I know that it’s never just a fandom to me, and it’s something more than that. No matter how critical people want to be of the books or movies, I hold onto a few very special things in knowing that Harry Potter changed my life in an impossible way. As I have completed my fourth novel this year I can only look back with fondness at the little third grader who wanted to make her own Hogwarts. Because with her change in mindset she gained a whole new world. And I suppose I keep that forever in sight today, that in opening myself up to something new and different, I can gain something new.
What books or moments have changed you? Do you have any good stories of childhood reading? Has Harry Potter had an influence on you?