I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without Harry Potter.
Does that sound cliche to say? Yes. But is it 100% true? Also yes.
Harry Potter has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. Literally. I was only nine years old when I was first introduced to the magical world of Hogwarts by my third grade teacher, and my memories from that time (and before) are vague at best. But I remember Harry Potter. After my teacher read the first two books to my class, I was hooked. I not only fell in love with J.K. Rowling’s novels and the story of the Boy Who Lived, but I also fell in love with literature. I had always been a strong reader, but my lifelong journey as a certified bookworm started with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
After that point, I not only became an avid reader, but I also started writing my own short fiction. I loved reading so much that I wanted to write stories just like the ones I was reading. I wanted nothing more than to be the next J.K. Rowling, and that (albeit far-fetched) dream carried me through my schooling. Not only did I excel in my English classes throughout grade school and high school, but I was also hiding novels under my desk during classes and writing fiction in my notebooks when I should’ve been taking notes. By the end of high school, I was sure that I would end up being a high school English teacher and/or a best-selling author. All the while, I was devouring the newest HP books as soon as they came out, re-reading the entire series so far nearly every summer, and attending midnight movie premieres and book release parties.
Not surprisingly, I majored in English in college. I went to a medium-sized university, which meant that I spent a lot of time with the other English majors in my year. The easiest way to quickly establish bonds with fellow English majors? Bring up Harry Potter. Immediately everyone connects over beloved characters and favorite moments. The release of Pottermore in college solidified Harry Potter‘s role in our collective identity. We all took our Hogwarts House loyalty very seriously, to the point where my friends’ house even became the official Hufflepuff common room. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two came and went, it felt to all of us as though an era was ending. I didn’t know what life was without HP in it.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait for long. When I was accepted into grad school and became a graduate teaching assistant at my undergraduate institution, I was given the opportunity to design a sophomore-level composition course around the theme of my choosing. Harry Potter seemed like a natural fit. Soon, I was not only reading HP and loving it from the sidelines, but I was also actively teaching Harry Potter in the college classroom. Even though many people in my profession dismiss the series as mere children’s lit, I know how much weight HP can carry. My students and I explored the series and its relationship to things such as gender, religion, and philosophical schools of thought. We used HP to jump-start conversations about author authority, moral development, identity development, and the influences of popular culture. I also shared with them any news stories about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Pottermore developments. I opened my students’ eyes to everything Harry Potter is and can be, prompting many of them to read Sorcerer’s Stone for the very first time. More than one student went on to read more of the series on their own. My rewarding experience teaching my Harry Potter course is also one of the major reasons why I have switched to rhetoric and composition.
And now I have Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I honestly don’t know what to think about this development in the HP canon. In a lot of ways, I wish Cursed Child (at least in book format) did not exist. Don’t get me wrong. I love the glimpse into Harry’s life post-Hogwarts, and I’m aware that a play script is never going to read like a novel (especially not the finely-crafted prose of a Rowling novel). What I struggle with when it comes to Cursed Child is purely the plot. The plot is over-contrived, too obvious in places, and much more reminiscent of an elaborate fan-fiction than anything with J.K. Rowling’s name on it. As much I love certain aspects of this new piece and would still do anything to see the production live on stage, I don’t find Cursed Child to be worthy of the Harry Potter legacy.
Books That Must Not Be Named aside, no work of literature could ever mean as much to me as the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter showed me the joy of reading and inspired me to start writing. Harry Potter has given me fond memories of book releases and midnight premieres, strengthened friendships worthy of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and had major influences on my career choices. Harry Potter is everything to me.
The Boy Who Lived has changed my life in so many ways, and I will make sure that his legacy lives on.
(Photo: My Hermione outfit for a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix pre-release party, 2003)