Joanne Rowling was a single mom on welfare... struggling after a divorce... teaching, but not getting by when on a train ride this AMAZING idea came to her. All of it... the seven book SERIES... It has so many elements of the classic battle between good and evil... the orphaned child, the wise mentor, the prophecy that guarantees he has to face the enemy because the enemy is determined to kill him... It is a classic boarding school tale. It is a metaphor for the Holocaust in several ways. It flirts with mythology related to werewolves, Veela, goblins, giants...
In fact I think the most brilliant job touting all she did was done here by my friend Jason, using a parallel tale from the conversation between Riddle and Slughorn. This is REALLY worth a read if you are a Rowling fan... it is both chuckle-worthy and insiteful... because she does this... uses a VARIETY of brilliant techniques (and like a good mystery writer, a fair few herrings) to tell us what is coming.
One of my favorite things about these books is they can be understood at so many levels. Both of my kids got their first dose in first grade (their request in both cases). And they understood the good versus evil story... and they loved the quidditch and magic and humor... and the friendship... and they missed a lot... Each of them got a reread about every two years because we read them as each new one came out. By upper elementary my daughter was squealing about the romance, my son (who might be a freak) was using early books to predict what would happen later... there is the message that authority isn't always right or good (a theme dear to my own heart). By high school a young adult is ready to spot the foreshadowing, to recognize the character growth... and a college student might do supplemental reading and realize the mythology and classic literature that feeds these books (for example a Veela wedding is known to be a dangerous place...)
But as you know... around here, it is all about ME... so I would like to write a brief letter to Jo, thanking her for what these books have done FOR ME...
In 2001, I had heard of the Harry Potter books. I'd listened to a few public radio pieces on 'controversy' over witchcraft in books. Even before reading, I knew I was on your side, as I happen to think people who don't get that fiction is fiction are NUTS, and those trying to censor shelves for others should be be put in their own private lala land to live with other people who are happy to be ignorant and leave the rest of us alone. But I'd been thinking I would wait until my oldest, then six, was about nine. 300 pages, after all, is beyond a first grade attention span. I thought.
When she brought it home from her school library however, I confess I was excited... we began to read... you had me HOOKED from the cat reading the map and the man willfully ignoring it... humor abounded... and by the end of chapter 1, “To Harry Potter-the boy who lived.” which brought out my first tears, I was hooked. I read every free minute and Santa brought the first three books, shortly followed by the brand newly released Goblet of Fire.
While I loved the books up to this point, it is Order of the Phoenix, turning point for Harry, point where he makes his destiny his OWN, instead of a thing happening TO HIM, that I fell thoroughly, deeply and irreversibly in love. I looked for excuses to reread, I spent time thinking about what came next (my own journey paralleling Harry's—it had become an interactive thing). I looked for online articles, read theories, and finally found a community with whom I could predict and debate in brilliant company.
And HERE, is where you changed my life. Forever.
|Part of that family was HERE. Lucky bastards.|
Those friends, bonding over Harry Potter theory, came from dozens of countries. We ranged in age from teens to 50s. We worked out rules of courtesy to eliminate misunderstandings, whether due to culture, immaturity, the lack of tone and facial expression on the internet... It was community... and then it was more... it was FAMILY. Six years later, many of these people... in fact MOST of them who were fairly dedicated... are still in my life... still supportive friends--family. I have visited a number in person, and when I met them I felt I'd known them for years... I HAD known them for years.
This community and these theories extended into writing fan fiction and reawakened a dream I'd always had that one day I would write... And you taught me that too... how to end a story, how to PLOT a story... how to begin with themes and points of action I wanted to include and to weave them together. In my life there had been dozens of novel starts, but my first long, completed works were all Harry Potter stories.
It also led to my first SHARING my writing, my first encouragement... my writing group, and my decision I could write a 'real' book.
My excitement for the series also was a bonding point with my kids. My 12 year old son and I STILL share books we love and discuss them. Harry Potter is why he trusts me on the matter. And as a mom of a teen and a tween, the movies are the last hold out of things that my children want to do WITH ME.
So thank you, Jo... for both of my families, and for my identity... as a writer...
The Watery Tart