It’s been four days since I’ve seen the last Harry Potter film and I’ve spent four days looking at a blank computer screen trying to find words to describe how I feel. This can’t just be a review of the movie, because really it’s a review of the last ten years of my life.
I wasn’t an early HP fan. In fact, as a born and bread, devoted Lord of the Rings reader, I harbored some resentment at the comparisons being made in the fall of 2001 when both the first LOTR and first HP movies were coming out. I refused to read the books despite having a Rowling fanatic for a roommate. I didn’t even see the first movie until after it was out of theaters. I rolled my eyes at all my college friends when they sat in the hallways in between classes discussing which Hogwarts house they belonged in.
But, one slow, boring summer day, standing in the young adults section of the library, I decided to give the first book a chance. All my friends were raving about the series and waiting with anticipation that was anything but patient for the fifth book’s release. I figured the books would be passably entertaining and help me pass the time on the desperately quiet Indiana University campus.
As most Harry Potter love stories go at this point, I was immediately addicted. I stayed up all night finishing the first book, and returned to the library within minutes of its opening the next day for the rest of the books. I skipped at least one class that week in which I did little more than break to shower and pop out to get reading snacks. (Notice I didn’t mention sleep.)
Even though I loved the books, I still swore that I didn’t need to buy them as I only planned to read them once.
One year later, while on vacation in Wyoming, I stood in line at a small local used book shop with the first five hardback books stacked in my arms.
Three reads of the current five books later, I discovered Harry Potter conferences and Harry Potter podcasts. A whole world of speculation and discussion opened up to me. I learned that I wasn’t just one of a few dorky adults reading these books. There were millions of us. There were college professors and Baptist ministers reading the books. There were people, friends I’d met at conferences writing books and making music and short films inspired by these books. I attended a Wizard Rock show at a library where I got a button that said, “Fight evil, read books”. My students were reading the books and talking about them with me and with each other in class.
For me, the world was taken over by Potter. Midnight book and movie releases, costumes, conferences, podcasts, books...we’re called fans because it’s short for fanatic, and it’s true that we are often fanatical about our passion for these books, especially in the face of those who mock adults for reading ‘kids books’.
But, personally, I’m okay being called a fanatic about something that has my students reading anything at all, let alone books about friendship, and sacrifice, and making hard decisions.
Friday morning, walking out of the theater at 2am to the enthusiastic chatter of moviegoers reflecting on what they just saw, it hit me how blessed I felt. I could have never opened that first book. I could have let my preconceived notions take over and keep me reading solidly in the world of adult fantasy and sci-fi. But, I took a chance. I read a magical story about a boy who lived. And that boy took me on a journey greater than any flying broom ever could. I took a journey that has no final destination. It has not ended. Not only do we have the joys of JK Rowling’s new project, Pottermore, to look forward to, but Harry’s journey reminds us to look beyond the surface of the things we encounter day to day and find the magic behind them.
Those few readers who have thus far found this site, if you have read the books, please take a moment to leave a comment and tell us how you first discovered Harry. And those of you who haven’t yet taken the journey with him, I encourage you to pick up the first book this week and dare to dream a world magical enough to contain Harry Potter and all his friends.