My Harry Potter Memories
This year, 2017, is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Harry Potter series. My kids and I have read every one of the books multiple times. My oldest was eight when The Sorcerers’ Stone came out. I remember hearing the excitement and the noise that surrounds a new children’s book. Young people instantly fell in love with Harry and his magical English school world, but also some parents complained and worried about a book for children that glorified magic and wizardry. I remember reading the book before passing it on to my children, just to be sure and comfortable with what they were reading. I had no idea how much I would enjoy the series and how much I would care for the characters. I still do not understand why people fear these books.
There are few curse words, especially for American readers. There are no sex scenes and no communist’s manifestos hidden among the pages. Harry is a wizard and attends an all wizards’ boarding school. The main focus of the seven books, to me, seems to be about love and sacrifice for others, friendship and coming of age.
One Sunday after church services I introduced my family to visitors sitting in the pew behind us. The mother and I chatted and we discovered we both homeschooled our children. We shared a couple of stories, bonding with our similar lifestyles. Then the other mother spoke those dreaded words, “I am so glad we homeschool and our kids don’t have to read those awful Harry Potter books.” We had been getting along so well, too. I just smiled even wider, nodded and said, “Of course, my problem with the newest Harry Potter is I have to wait on my older two, to finish reading it so I can have my turn.” I don’t think she had much to say after that, but on the way home my son and daughter had a long discussion. They were church kids, they loved to read, and they could not understand why anyone would ban these books. I didn’t know what to say then, but I now have my ideas. Book banning comes from fear.
People fear what they don’t know, what they’ve been told to fear, what they don’t understand and what they don’t want to think about. My daughter had a roommate in college that had been told Harry Potter was a good kid sent to an evil wizard’s school where he was trained to became evil. She knew the books were bad, and felt uncomfortable knowing my daughter loved to read them. Laura explained many times that the books showed how the power of love is stronger than the power of magic. Her roommate even asked, “Are you sure?” What she was told was more true to her than what we knew, having actually read the books.
Some fear the books because the Old Testament of the Bible bans witchcraft and they fear reading this fictional story would cause them to betray their beliefs. Maybe these stories were different than Wizard of Oz, Sleeping Beauty and so many others because they took place in our world, not in fairy tale land. The Potter books were, and are so wildly popular, and with all the attention some people feared a mystical mindset being introduced into their children’s thinking, ideas the parents couldn’t control. Maybe control is the driving force behind all this fear.
Most of my friends were just glad their reluctant readers were enjoying these books. I know I was. Plus, we shared the joy of reading and discovering this world together. While waiting on J. K. Rowling to finish the next book we debating over who might be working with Voldermort, the true role of Snape, and which house each of us would be sorted into if we attended Hogwarts. Obviously none of us would be muggles, non-magic people.
Book number six was released while my three kids and I drove across the country from Montana to our home in Georgia. We wanted to buy the book on the first available day, and that specific day found us camping in a rural area of Indiana. As we checked into the campground the day before, I asked the manager where the nearest bookstore was. He wrinkled his brow and shook his head. “This is farming country. Don’t nobody have time to read.” He had no idea where we could find a bookstore.
Later as we used the campground laundry mat we talked with the manager’s wife. I asked her the same question. She sighed and started talking about how much she had loved to read as a child. Smiling, she remembered hiding novels behind textbooks in school and how much joy the stories brought her. I couldn’t help but contrast her feelings to those of her husband.
The next day we found the books when we stopped for gas along the highway. We bought two copies so there would be no fights over who got to read first. My youngest was a few books behind, and I had to drive. I remember seeing teary eyes as each reader finished their copy, and worrying which of my favorite characters might have died. As we each finished reading we struggled to keep plot points and secrets from each other, so as to not take away from the experience. We really had to control ourselves as the youngest was catching up with us. But, one day, while playing with friends in the neighborhood, a girl told her about the scene that made each of us cry. Before she even started book number 6, Laura had been told the ending. She still cried when she read the words. This is how powerful good fiction can be. I am thankful for fiction, magical stories, and excellent writers that feed our imaginations. Thank you for surviving, and overcoming the fear.