Dear J.K. Rowling:
Thank you for Harry Potter. Your books have been life changing for my family and a fantastic gift for us to share together. I may be an ocean away from you, but oh, how I’d love to buy you a cup of tea and thank you in person. How I’d love to share a few moments in a cozy café, time to gush over you, your words, your imagination, and your brilliance.
I read the first four Harry Potter books in my early twenties after a recommendation from a trusted roommate. I adored the books, but as major life events started to happen (graduation, first job, marriage, first home), my reading of any books sadly ceased. I enjoyed all the Harry Potter movies as they arrived at theaters but did not give them much thought after the initial viewing. One night in July 2005 my husband and I happened to be passing by a bookstore on the eve of the sixth Harry Potter book’s release and we were entertained and surprised by the fanfare and devotion of the crowds, young and old, most dressed in Hogwarts* school robes. The energy in the bookstore was electric and giddy and, I admit, I was a little amused. I may have even given my husband a knowing “these people are a bit TOO into this book” glance.
Fast forward eight years. Use a time-turner* if you will.
We started reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as a family three years ago with our then seven- and five-year-old children. The wizarding world and the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine immediately captivated us all. Our nightly reading sessions became the highlight of the day. Dinner and bathtime were rushed so we could get back to the story of a little boy with powers he does not understand, a family who does not want him, a longing he cannot define, and finally, the place he starts to feel at home and loved. In those pages we found more than just a riveting story in a compelling new world. We found both child and adult role models, stories of both everyday and epic bravery, beautiful examples of the life-giving power of friendship and loyalty.
Harry Potter became a part of our daily life, and the four of us are ever better for the story of The Boy Who Lived.
Ms. Rowling, I thank you. I thank you for writing school-aged characters who are multi-faceted. I thank you for characters who make good and bad choices, who defy single adjectives and labels. I thank you for writing about both dysfunctional and functional families; for subtly addressing social issues and prejudices; for powerful redemption stories; for creating characters with courage, devotion, and kindness; for juxtaposing tragedy, victory, failures, laughter and mundane moments; for writing about friends who are both flawed and essential, families both related and created, and foes and heroes who are not always who they seem. You write about life, with all its intricacies, so magically.
As a mom, I thank you with all my heart for creating a world of words that my children can retreat to by simply opening a book. Yes, I thank you for your creativity and vision, and I humbly bow before you in admiration for your imagination, but more than that, I thank you for writing an enormous story of love, bravery, self-sacrifice, and dedication to a cause bigger than oneself. As my children eventually enter their own Diagon Ally* and make their way towards adulthood, I am forever grateful that they can escape their own uncertain surroundings into a fictional world that, when stripped of its magic, creatures, and fanciful names, is quite like our current world. And that by remembering how Harry, Ron, and Hermonie navigated their teen years, they too can be inspired to face the world with hope, determination, a strong sense of right and wrong, and a little belief in magic.
I need to tell you, Ms. Rowling, that this year, 11 years after I judged Harry Potter fans for their extreme enthusiasm at a bookstore in Minneapolis that July night, me and my three muggles* will be giddily awaiting the midnight sale of your newest Harry Potter tale at a San Antonio bookstore. We will unabashedly don our wizarding wear to celebrate the world of magic and the redeeming power of love, and for that, I raise a glass to you. Always.
*shameless Harry Potter reference