Monday, June 26, 2017

Happy 20th Anniversary, Harry Potter!!!!

Image result for harry potter and the sorcerer's stone
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Welcome back, everybody!!! It has been a while since I have written a post.  I thought that today would be a great day to write one because today is the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. On this day in 1997, Harry Potter and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were first introduced to the world, and a mad kind of fandom was  born.  The novel had been rejected by 12 publishers before Scholastic decided to take a chance with J. K. Rowling and her boy wizard. 

“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. 'Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Frankly, I was much like those rejecting publishers, I had heard of the book, but truly didn't pay much attention, because I was busy interviewing for a job after graduating from college. (Fun Fact: Two of my favorite fandoms were born in 1997:  Tony Gonzalez was drafted by the Chiefs, and Harry Potter was published. 1997 was a great year!!!) Besides, it was a kids novel, and I was beyond that. I was too busy trying to reread Romeo and Juliet, The Crucible, and Of Mice and Men, as I began my career as a High School teacher.  Who had time for a book about a little boy wizard?

“There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.”
– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Fast forward to 2005, almost 10 years later, I am now four years into my third teaching job (the one that was supposed to last one year but lasted fifteen).  Every year, my senior class would have to write a literary research paper.  I would have them pick from a long list of texts that were pre-chosen by me. The list included works by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, JRR Tolkien, William Shakespeare to name a few.  One of my seniors (CHS Class of 2006) asked if he could do Harry Potter for his research paper. I actually laughed out loud before I answered him and with absolutely no pretense, told him no.  He asked me why not. I'm scrambling because seriously, you could not BS this group of kids. My legit answer was because it was not yet a part of the highly revered "literary canon." Another student asked why not? I responded that it was too new and not many literary criticisms had been written about them. Besides, I continued, you guys can only write about novels I have readThere was a literal collective gasp, because these students had grown up with Harry Potter and could not fathom that I had not read any of them. Keep in mind, I taught three preps, I was reading approximately 12 novels a year just to keep up with these classes. That, however, did not deter them. They challenged me to read the series. I told them I would, but I really had no plans to until they kept checking up on me.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” 

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

So, I relented, and I went to our school library checked out all of the available novels from the library, there was still a waiting list from some of those novels, but as a teacher, I could jump the line. (perks). I left school for Christmas break armed with the first six novels courtesy of the library and another student who loaned me Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I read all 6 novels over Christmas vacation. I literally could not put them down. I devoured ever page as they were my favorite potato chips, just aimlessly, following page after page with Harry, Hermione, and Ron on their various adventures.

“We teachers are rather good at magic, you know.” 

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I met the professors:  Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, Sybill Trelawney, and the revolving door of Defense against the Dark Arts teachers. I identified with all of these teachers at one point of other in my teaching career. I liked Snape because, he always wore black, he was a bit snarky, and he really was the only one who would keep Harry in check. I told someone one time who said that Snape was unreasonably hard on Harry to the point of bullying. First I reminded them of all the stuff Dumbledore did to Harry, then I reminded them, that a lot of times teachers are the hardest on the students they see the most potential in, and they feel like they are wasting it, but I digress. 

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” 

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

By the time I finished Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, I could not believe there was nothing else, but I was sure of something. I was sure that Harry was a horcrux, and it was one of the few times that I could not wait for vacation to be over, so I could discuss my theories with my students. When we started back, most were impressed that I was finished with all of the books in a two week period. We discussed favorite characters, theories, characters who we were sad to see go, and characters we would not miss. We discussed the horcruxes, and this novice Potterhead discussed my theory about Harry and how Dumbledore more or less tells Harry this in Chamber of Secrets. We all loved the books for different reasons, but in the end, we all loved these books. We also agreed that waiting another whole year for the Deathly Hallows was going to be a misery.

“No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” 

― J.K. Rowling

Thanks to the Class of 2006, I have been hooked on Potter ever since. A couple of them, who of course had graduated by then, contacted me on Facebook after I finished The Deathly Hallows. Now, my students have challenged me to read series before Percy Jackson-hated it, Hunger Games-loved it, Twilight-hated it (y'all know that), and Lemony Snicket-hated it.  None of those series resonate with me the way the Harry Potter books do. I do try to read other works every year. I challenge myself to read at least 15-20 books a year, because as a teacher, I have to read so much for work, that reading for pleasure some times takes a back seat. I try to read the series every other year. 

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” 

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I love this series for many, many reasons, (and yes, Snape has always been one of my favorite characters), but it teaches young people about standing up for what's right even if it isn't popular. It teaches friendship, love, and acceptance. My favorite characters:

Harry-because of his sheer determination. He overcomes so many tragedies, and on more than one occasion willing to sacrifice himself for others.

Hermione-because I was Hermione in school. Not the know it all, except with my friends, but the girl who always knew the library was the place to go find the answer, and I was fiercely devoted to my friends.

Luna-because she was unabashedly herself. She was not afraid to be different in a world that was already so vastly different. 

Fred and George-the twins who could find humor in a funeral. I was truly heartbroken when Fred died, and I cry every time.

“You're a prefect? Oh Ronnie! That's everyone in the family!"

"What are Fred and I? Next door neighbors?” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Snape-Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was a jerk, yes, he was abusive to Harry, yes, he took out his anger over James on Harry. I still liked him. He was snarky, so am I, and sometimes, Harry was little know it all jerk who deserved it. There, I said it!!! In the end though, when you find out about his devotion to Lily, you go back to all those little moments throughout the novel when you knew at the end of the day, he was going to protect Lily's baby.

McGonagall-The stern protector of Hogwarts and her students. She always saw their potential and would not accept anything but the best from them.

My favorite novel in the series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Even though, we lost a lot of our favorites in this novel, so many secrets were revealed, especially the Lily and Snape storyline. 

My least favorite: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I like to call this one Harry Potter and the Nonstop Teenage Angst. Harry was at his most annoying in this novel. I seriously wanted to punch him myself or at least turn him over to Voldemort. Sheesh. I know he was recovering from the trauma of Goblet of Fire, but geez kid!! Oh, and Sirius was just as annoying, plus I didn't like the writing in this one. I don't know why, it is the only one I feel this way about.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” 

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

You noticed that Dumbledore is not on my list of favorite characters. In my mind, he is like Glinda the good witch, Gandalf the Grey, and Haymitch Abernathy. Why? Hey, inexperienced kid, I'm going to send you on a perilous journey, I may show up from time to time to help you out, you may die to accomplish this mission, and I more than okay with that. You know grand scheme of things and all. I did agree with Dumbledore on one thing. “One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” ― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” 

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

In the end, J.K. Rowling masterfully created a world that even in its darkest moments, you still want to visit. She gave a generation of children and adults a wonderful series that when you are reading it, it feels like you are visiting an old friend. Thank you, Ms. Rowling for giving us the most wondrous world of Harry Potter!!! Happy Anniversary, Harry Potter!!!!

“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.

"After all this time?"
"Always," said Snape.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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