The Harbinger Online

Fully Booked: Let’s Talk About Harry Potter

Throughout my time writing these blog posts, I’ve had so many moments when I’ve considered including the “Harry Potter” series as one of my examples. But I’ve always stopped myself, telling myself that there is no way I could do it justice in 150 words. That after the huge impact those books had on my life, it would be a disservice to fob them off with a passing mention. So that’s why I decided to dedicate my last Fully Booked to a series that hasn’t changed my life, so much as shaped it. Of every story that I’ve fallen in love with over the years, none has made me who I am as much as this one.

It’s hard for me to explain to you what it’s like being a kid growing up in England in the early 2000s. Harry Potter was everywhere. Throughout elementary school it was everyone’s favorite series. It was a constant competition over who had read the furthest, whose parents had let them watch the movie and who hadn’t been scared at all when Quirrell took off his turban.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverAll of my most vivid childhood memories revolve around the series. I remember getting home and crying because my friends were all talking about some guy called “Serious Black,” and I was only on “Chamber of Secrets” so I couldn’t join in. I remember seeing the fourth film in the cinema (the first time I’d been allowed) and dressing up in Quidditch robes with my best friend. We had to hide in the toilets when we saw some boys from the grade above. And I remember every year on World Book Day (a day in England when kids dress up as their favorite characters and get “free book” tokens — suck it America) hordes of Harrys and Hermiones of every size, gender and race filled the school.

Hermione. She was every awkward English girl’s soul mate, and 9-year-old me, skinny and bookish with wonky teeth, clung to her as much as any. I don’t think I realized, young as I was, how many of the dozens of books I read were led by strong boy characters with a pretty, but fairly one-sided female sidekick. But subconsciously it must have seeped in, because Hermione was my godsend. She was proof that being nerdy was cool, and that being strong and kind was more important than being popular. And fifth-grade-me really needed someone to tell her that.

J.K. Rowling changed the way I saw girls in books. It wasn’t just Hermione teaching me to be hardworking and care about others. It was Ginny teaching me it was okay to like “boy stuff” as well as “girl stuff” — I started karate around the time Ginny joined the Gryffindor Quidditch team — and that I should stand my ground and stick up for myself. It was Luna teaching me that it’s ok to be different and that real friends will like you the way you are.

And ultimately, Harry Potter gave me a belief in magic. Not goblins, transfiguration and spells, but the magic of people. It gave me unwavering faith in the power of normal people to make a difference and I think that’s what stuck with me more than anything else. That however strong your oppressors are, however powerful or large their army, there will always be good people who are willing to risk everything to fight back. And that’s something I resolutely believe to this day.

So, thank you to the 50 or so people who actually read this blog. Thank you Harbinger for publishing my inane ramblings. And thank you J.K., for making a little girl believe she can change the world.

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Katharine Swindells

Senior Katharine Swindells is head online copy-editor of the Harbinger Online. She likes British politics, selfies, feminism, cute shoes and books. Read Full »

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