I’m referring to Harry Potter, although I do like several of the other well know Harrys..the Prince, Belfonte and Houdini. As in real life, I am often late to the party and resistant to embracing books of fantasy fiction. I’ve long been out of the young adult reader category but as with everything else available to us in our worlds, things come to us when they need to. Harry Potter arrived on my nightstand, along with the six other volumes a few weeks ago. I am just about through the second novel and there’s pretty much no stopping me now to complete the set.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know of his existence. It was just when he arrived on the scene twenty years ago, I was busy being a grown up full time with occasional moments of childhood pushing through to the front. I was a parent who “bought the books” for my then 11 year old youngest son. Recently, he said to me that Harry Potter changed his life and opened his eyes and world to reading. I decided that I needed to understand the magic behind the phenomenon. I remember that my mother, who was a reader as well, had read at least the first book, and she referenced “wanting an owl”. At the time I didn’t realize what that meant. I was in a time in my life that I wasn’t paying as much attention to the details around me, but more the broad strokes.
Allowing myself to slip into the world of Hogwarts, was both comforting and comfortable. I knew enough about him to have referenced the space under the stairs of the first house my FHB and I owned together as a “Harry Potter room”. Harry, when I now come to know him, becomes somewhat of a parallel person to my youngest son and makes me remember what being 11 might have been like for him, as well as a difficult time in my own growing up.
Harry, the outsider, only somewhat aware of the world being different to him and for him, was a survivor who strived to connect with others. Harry’s adoptive family was abusive and cold and dismissive. He was a target of their disappointment of his differences from them. Despite this theme, he found his place in the world and others who were like minded, and found the world he had grown up in was not the world he had to live in.
I am asked to write letters of recommendation for some of the senior class students who are heading to college. There are some that come from an easier life, and others who lives are challenged from the start, and are often metaphors for the characters in Harry Potter. They all have their powers but they haven’t culled them or they are unaware of their potential. My own growing up was more economically stable than some of the students, but in terms of feeling out of step or place, or not feeling as connected to others as we hope, can reveal and remember where I was at that point in my development. I like that I can write those letters and see their magic.
For years, I have called my youngest son, “Harry” as a sign of affection. When each book was published, I made sure he would own it . I only now recognize the power of the books.
Harry is someone we can probably recognize, if not in ourselves, in someone we know. The world he lives in is the world we might live in, with the good guys and the bad guys and the struggle to distinguish them from one another. It is a universal tale. Sometimes it is good to go back in time to books written for young adults by adults who remember the struggles of growing up. It’s never to late to read a book whose time was meant for reading now, and not then. Several people have suggested I see the movies. I choose to rather read the words J.D. Rowling chose to tell a story of a wizard in training and I try and imagine which character I might be. Perhaps I am Hedwig the owl or perhaps Hedwig’s character is a voice from my own past, delivering a message. I would like to imagine it is.
Come with me to Privet Drive and find something unexpected.