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I sincerely remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1999, and I was in 2nd grade. In Miss Tiffany’s 2nd grade class, to be exact. It was storytime, and we were all crowded around on the big rug in her room, staring up at her as she settled into her rocking chair and opened a book. The book. It started out talking about this family, the Dursleys. They were the worst. They were total normies — straight-laced and stuffy. But the weird thing was? They had this nephew. This kid named Harry whose parents died in a car crash (“A CAR CRASH?! A car crash kill Lily an’ James Potter?! It’s an outrage! It’s a scandal!”) who it turned out, was anything but normal.
Ever since that day, Harry Potter has been such a steadfast part of who I am. I feel weird even italicising it because it doesn’t feel like a book that the world fell in love with. It feels like it’s something personal to me. After that first chapter, after I was first introduced to “The Boy Who Lived,” I went to the Book Fair (God, I loved the Book Fair), got the book with my allowance, and my world changed forever.
I know it sounds corny, but growing up with Harry Potter was a truly magical, for lack of a better word, time in history. I mean, I read all of the released books, up to The Prisoner of Azkaban, then had to wait for the fouth installment to come out. I had to sit there and theorize and wonder and speculate. And this was before social media made this a thing. My family and I would sit around and talk about what we thought would happen next. My brother and I preordered our own copies Goblet of Fire. We dressed up and went to Barnes and Noble and we waited in line, we waited until midnight, to get our hands on the next book. My mom stocked the fridge with Mountain Dew and we stayed up all night, reading in separate rooms, only to rush to the other and ask “what part are you on?!” when shit started going down.
We did that, together, for each and every book after that.
Thing is, I’m not just here to reminisce. I’m not the exception or the weird outlier. Everyone who loves Harry Potter (the books. If you’ve just watched the movies don’t even think you can be a part of this fucking conversation) has a story. A history. I mean, after 4,224 and 1,084,170 words, you’ve truly been on an epic journey.
And as much as I want to fight and yell and tell people they’re wrong for not reading Harry Potter, I sort of get it. I mean, these books were written for children. They’re about some nerds at a wizard school learning to flick their wants (sounds dirty), and they fight the bad guy. They beat the bad guy. Shocking. And I mean, at this point everyone knows what happens more or less, right?
Except you are absolutely wrong. On all accounts.
At this point in my life, I’ve sincerely read the books more times than I can count. The pages are worn and tearstained and have food spills all over them. And each time I pick them up and read them, I learn something new. I discover something different. Not just about the books, but about myself. You see, growing up, the magic was fascinating. I mean, of course, it was. Dreaming of going away to a fantastic school where you learned how to turn your enemies into ferrets (okay, so that was just the imposter Moody) and ended up having tons of money in your vault? It all seemed so exciting. So enchanting.
But as we got older and as the stories got darker, more lessons were taught. Lessons that went beyond the value of friendship, the importance of family, and the honor in doing what is right over what is easy. Loved ones died, taken too early. Families crumbled over differing political opinions, and we learned that even our heroes are humans. Even they can fail.
Harry Potter isn’t just about a magical little boy who manages to defeat this evil wizard. I’d honestly dare to say that’s not even the most import aspect of the series. Hell, the fantasy and the magic and the world created, which amazing, isn’t even the main draw. It’s seeing different characters evolve and learn and change. It’s the way stern, Professor McGonagall fiercely loves her school and the children, even if you don’t see it often under her hard exterior. It’s the way Molly Weasley, the ideal mother, will fight tirelessly to protect her family. And it’s the smaller moments, the moments when Harry is jealous or scared or acting like kind of a dick, that it comes together: No one is perfect. No matter how famous or talented or wonderful you think someone has it, they have battles that feel impossible to conquer as well. We all have our own curses to overcome. And still, no matter how dark and scary and painful things become, there’s always beauty, and light, and hope, as long as you remember to look for it.
This isn’t a story about three little kids. This is a story full of thousands of character arcs, hundreds of lessons, and a sense of comfort, strength, and resilience that is always there for you. That’s always ready to help you realize that you need to keep going. That you need to keep pushing. That you need to keep fighting.
That’s why I can honestly say, no one is too good for Harry Potter. It doesn’t matter if you “don’t like fantasy” or if the idea of a magical school seems utterly hokey to you. Because that’s not what Harry Potter is. And I’m not even asking you to do me a favor by jumping into the series. I’m asking you to do yourself a favor. Go to a used bookstore. Pick up a copy. And understand what it feels like to find a part of yourself in the pages of a book. Because you know what they say, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you, well, you know the rest..