I don’t often announce the fact that I am a huge Harry Potter fan, not because I am ashamed, but because I never want to belabour the point. I feel as though sooo many people have heard about Harry Potter and why it’s great, and how they are the biggest nerds when it comes to this type of fandom, but I’m a little different. I am a fan, probably one of the biggest, but the love I have for the boy who lived, is far more than a trend, a craze, or a fad, and I know that most Potter fans will feel the same way. I wasn’t sure that I would do a post about my love for this series of novels, but with the new film out Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I felt that I needed too. I just watched this film, and I loved it, it brought back so many memories of the books and the world they brought to life, as well as this overwhelming feeling of hope, because who doesn’t want magic to exist? But these books also encompass everything I love about reading, and I felt that a post about these books deserves a place on this space, where I share with all of you my love for the written word.
So where to begin?
By the time I started reading the Potter books, I was already a bit behind. I was a big reader by this point, 11 years old, in the 6th grade, preferring our library period to math any day of the week. I had started to read some Madeline L’Engle, and for those of you who don’t know her you should definitely check out her books! This was when I probably realized my preferences tended towards the realms of sci-fi and fantasy, but I was still also reading the young reader books available in my school library, I’m sure you’ve heard of them; Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High, stuff I could read in half a day. It was then that my grade 6 teacher, offered me a Harry Potter book to read one day. It was the third one, The Prisoner of Azkaban, and he told me that he felt I would eat it up. I was more than sceptical, the only other person reading Harry Potter in my class, was the nerdiest boy in school and no one talked to him. I already was known as a bookworm, would this book make me more of a social pariah? Did I want that? I relented in any case, because, let’s face it, it was a book, and I am me, and when you’re 11 year’s old you are somehow still more inclined to be yourself. So reading it was basically the only option.
It was at this point while reading the book, which I finished in three days, that I first heard the word voracious to describe my reading persona and it was my grade 6 teacher who mentioned it to me when I handed him back the book. I was hooked. Never before had a I read anything that sucked me into a world that seemed so incredibly real and relatable.
Books 1 and 2 followed quickly after, and the following summer, book number 4. It was while reading The Goblet of Fire, 4th in the series, that I think I came to realize what these books meant to me. There I was 12 years old, and reading this over 400 page novel, soaking it all in. A testament to Jo Rowling’s writing is that it kept young readers engaged, and made them understand what it meant to be immersed in a novel. To know what escaping into literature meant and what it could do for you. That’s a priceless lesson. Aside from the profound political messages and societal values ensconced within these pages, these books were also about a boy who lived in spite of all odds being against him. And now he was the chosen one, he was destined. To read a book like that as a child, you are automatically drawn to this protagonist, this young kid, who is so like you, flawed and ordinary at first, but deep down, always knowing that what made him different, was what also made him special.
It was this safety that the books provided, around the notion of being different and unique, that made me love them all the more into my teen years. Books 5-7 were published while I was between 15-19 years old, and these books are truly what kept me afloat through those difficult years.
I wasn’t bullied per say, not in the way young girls are today, but I was definitely ostracized. Anxiety was a big monster in my life during these days, and I developed horrendous habits to cope with it, to feel a sense of control.
Most days I would wash my hands at least 5 times a day, but during these washing sessions, I would need to count to 30 in order to make sure my hands were “clean.” I was often made fun of because girls would see me standing there washing away, and they really didn’t get what was wrong with me. I developed this really painful rash on the backs of my hands, they were just completely raw, and would bleed if I scratched them to relieve the itching, but sometimes the skin just cracked on its own.
I just hated school, I’m surprised my grades didn’t suffer, but being a perfectionist that wasn’t an option to let those slide, yet I wished more than anything that I could be anywhere but school each day. I just wasn’t like the other teenagers, I didn’t get invited to parties, boys never ever talked to me, and quite honestly, I think no one really knew who I was. And while I now know that these habits I once had were basically the early stages of what could have been a very debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder, I also know that the books literally saved me. They helped calm me enough to see beyond these habits and the reasons for them, to finally get to a point where logic won out more often than not.
Sometimes when your daily life becomes somewhat unbearable, it is nice to know that there is a place you can go to, just by turning the page. It is like this for all books I read, not just the Harry Potter series, but those books are definitely something I turn to time and time again, when faced with moments of crises or anxiety. It’s why I am so invested in the fandom to this day, the Harry Potter world has become such a memorable part of my life and I want it to remain a part of my everyday world. Not in a grand all encompassing way, but subtly, just little reminders here and there. Small things to remind me that there is a great positivity to being a part of this great big world, and while I may not be the chosen one, I too have a destiny all my own, and its part of my big adventure to go out and live it.