It has been twenty years since the first Harry Potter book was published.
That's a photo of me geeking out at the Harry Potter Studio Tour near London last year, with my very own mug of butterbeer.
And yes, I bought the collector's mug.
And yes, I am revisiting the tour this summer because they've recently added a section about the Forbidden Forest and I'm using my mother's visit as an excuse.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is that it has been twenty years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's, sorry I'm American) Stone was published, eighteen years since I started reading the books, and the way that I feel about the stories and about the Harry Potter universe hasn't diminished one bit.
I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. The Harry Potter series played a significant role in the coming of age for my generation. The books were a source of entertainment and escapism, yes, but they also shaped who we grew to be. Through her writing, J.K. Rowling taught us about love and friendship, and that it was okay to be different and to stand up for what you believed in.
The Guardian ran a great article in their magazine yesterday about how Harry Potter has influenced our generation. It is touching and super relatable, and definitely worth a read. You can find it, HERE. One of the most interesting and exciting bits, for me, was this:
"A 2014 study found that teenagers who identified with Harry displayed more tolerance towards refugees, immigrants and LGBTQ people. In 2016, another study found that Harry Potter readers were less likely to vote for the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, even after controlling for other factors such as party affiliation, age, gender and education. Is it possible that Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity among the young had anything to do with their literary education? Is it possible that Harry, in the 20 years he has been with us, has inspired a generation to be more empathic, welcoming and socially liberal than those before it? We will see."
There were a lifetime of lessons packed into those seven hefty (but never long enough) books and they were neatly tucked into the most vivid and detailed of writing. It was only a matter of time before the captivating world that Rowling had created would leap off of the page and out into the real world to become the absolute empire that it is today.
And I was a part of all of it. The midnight book releases, the films, the costumes, the paraphernalia, the tours. I simply could not get enough. For me, the books were a source of comfort. I have re-read the books several times each - the first time probably being immediately after finishing the final installment in the series, in a desperate attempt to cling onto the magic. The most recent time was during the month after I graduated from college in 2010, when I was back at home, away from my friends, with no internet access and attempting to cope during the last few weeks before I would be reunited with my long-distance then boyfriend, now husband.
Just thinking about the books makes me emotional and brings back so many memories. I am always happy to see youngsters and teens reading the books, I give a little wink and a nod to the obvious Potterheads amongst my students, but there was something in the air when I was growing up that just isn't the same today.
It's why my going-on-thirty friends and I still randomly quiz each other on Potter trivia and enjoy philosophical discussions on the development of significant characters. It's why I tell time every day at work using an unassuming, little watch that (if you look close enough) is marked with the sign of the Deathly Hallows. It's why a group of superfans wrote and performed a musical based on the series at my university - no joke, you can watch it here on YouTube - the first part has over 13 million views. It is why fully grown adults around my age tattoo themselves with symbols or quotes from the books, turn into gleeful children at Universal Studios or PotterCon, and are even planning their weddings around the magical theme.
There is a certain nostalgia revolving around that time in our lives where all we had to do was study and play, watch the films and dream about the release of the next book in the Harry Potter series. It was all so fresh and new, and the fact that we had to wait for each book meant that we spent hours thinking about and discussing each detail, speculating as to where the story would lead next and how it would all end. We were children growing up alongside Harry and because of this, I think, he will always feel like one of us.
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