With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 2, this really is the conclusion of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Sure, people will still read the books, go to the theme park, and be checking out Pottermore, but this is definitely the end of the series. In 1998 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in the U.S. and for the next thirteen years much of the country was captivated by the stories and subsequent films. Can you think of any other books that so completely, at the same time, captured the interest of so many people of different ages? Love or hate Harry, there was simply no ignoring him. Today The Hub’s bloggers look back and share their reflections on Harry Potter and what he meant to them. Enjoy! And, please feel free to share your own memories in the comments section.
Sarah Debraski: When the first Harry Potter book came out I was working in a small library and a friend asked me if I’d heard about this new book that was all the rage in England. I hadn’t, but when I did get a copy of the new book I read it and loved it. It just so happens that I love almost any book set in a boarding school. And this was a boarding school with magic? Right up my alley. I loved the story and, as it went on, really loved the rich overall story, with its well thought out history, dark moments, and the maturing of the characters. But….I did have some conflicting emotions about it. You see, I tend to not enjoy reading what everyone else is, or being caught up in a trend. If Oprah recommends a book it makes me not want to read it. As a librarian I knew I should be thrilled that a book was proving to the country that reading that captured the imagination was still alive and that it was attracting non-readers. The truth is it drove me crazy that it felt like the world had woken up to reading when all along my library had been filled with equally engaging and entertaining novels that had been overlooked. I did what most librarians did–seized the opportunity to push all those other books on readers. Oh, you liked Harry Potter? Try this Diana Wynne Jones! I couldn’t stand having parents come in to the library and indulge in the newest form of parental bragging–seeing whose child read the books at the youngest age, or which child could read a book in a day. I felt like they were missing the point of reading entirely.
Having only read the series as an adult I didn’t get to “grow up with Harry” as so many did, but because the books came out over a long period of time, I do have associations of them with different stages of my life. I vividly recall soaking my tired conference feet in Toronto reading a just released installment at midnight with my fiance next to me, then some years later being delighted with how much my newborn son was sleeping so that I could read the brand new Harry Potter that had just come out that summer. That boy wizard and his friends and his magical world have definitely held me in their thrall. And now, I can’t wait until the day I get to hand that first book to my own children and say “Here, I think you’ll like this. It’s about a boy who learns he can do magic.”
Emily Calkins: It was July 2007. I was crammed on a hot, stuffy bus, shoved between the open window and the backpacker who shared my seat. Red dust from the unpaved Cambodian roads wafted in through the windows as we bounced along. I was indistinguishable from many post-college travelers who’d gone before me, except that I was clutching a rather large hardcover book and sobbing my eyes out as I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I cried because the book is so dang sad but also because I knew that when I reached the end Harry’s story would be finished for me. I’m lucky enough to have grown up with Harry. I read the first book in seventh grade; I built friendships with the glue of all-day reading marathons and midnight releases. Harry was a kid when I was a kid; he was an awkward, moody teenager when I was an awkward, moody teenager. Now that I’m an adult (or so I tell myself), I have the absolute joy of bringing Harry, Ron, and Hermione to new readers. I’ll never forget the thrill of the first time I handed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to a fantasy-loving nine-year old who hadn’t read any of the books or (miraculously) seen the movies. It’s encounters like those that ease the sadness of the final book, and, tonight at midnight, the final film. Harry’s story is over for me, but I have the best job in the world. There are tons of kids out there who haven’t met Harry, and my job is to introduce them.
Jessica Pryde: In the early 2000s, I avoided Harry Potter like the plague. I was, after all, in high school, and prided myself on reading grown-up authors like Anne Rice, Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson (apparently, I lived in the R section of Barnes and Noble). But then my best friend betrayed me, and upon hearing of the film’s release, had read the first four novels over the summer, which she’d spent out of town, away from me. When we returned to school that fall, she informed me we WOULD be going to the opening show of the first Harry Potter movie, and I had better get myself up to date before she started revealing things about the plot (she was–and still is–a smug plot spoiler). I had a series to finish first, so finally, the weekend before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released, I bought the first three books (this was when both of us were getting paid for babysitting in books), read them the first half of the week, and borrowed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire from said best friend three days before the premiere–much to the detriment of my schoolwork, of course. Needless to say, I was toast. I have the rest in hardcover, of course, because even through college and grad school, each book afterward was purchased and read within a week of its release. And of course, now that the series is over, I have lost a great deal of my time to a teeny tiny portion of the million+ fics available for my greedy consumption (see my previous post on my long-standing minor addiction to fanfiction). I just can’t. Let. Go. But hey, who wants to?
Mia Cabana: Probably my best memory of the Harry Potter series comes from when I was going to graduate school in Edinburgh and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. My best friend and I rushed from the cafe where we worked after our shift ended and parked ourselves in front of Waterstone’s bookstore– first in line but for a 5-year-old girl. (We stopped just short of elbowing her out of the way). Waiting in line until midnight was made even more magical by a view of Edinburgh Castle on its hill, right across from where were sitting on the sidewalk– we noticed that it was all lit up and it seemed like something was going on…turned out J.K. Rowling herself was there to do a reading of the first chapters for lucky contest winners from around the world! For days after, anywhere you looked in the city you could see someone reading the book. It felt like a phenomenon that everyone was in on.
A close second was when Deathly Hallows was released. My roommate and I had gotten our copies at midnight, but agreed to wait to read it until that Sunday, which we both had off from work. We started reading at 11 a.m., finished at 11 p.m. with just a few breaks for life-sustaining bagels and pizza. By the time we went to bed we were so riled up that neither of us could sleep… a few days later I awoke in the middle of the night, thinking I heard noises coming from outside my door. Still half-asleep I busted into my roommate’s room and groggily announced (in all seriousness) that I was there to save her from dementors. The story runs deep in true fans…sometimes maybe a little too deep!
Sarah Wethern: Harry Potter has meant the world to me! I read the first book as a freshman in high school and I was truly ready to not like it. I’m not one to fall in love with “popular” books. But my mind was blown. I was immediately drawn into Harry’s world, as he lived in the cupboard under the stairs and had to deal with a family that disliked him immensely. It reminded me of my favorite book, Matilda by Roald Dahl, and well, I was hooked. Thus, began my Harry Potter journey. It’s been a book series that has led me to meet new people, form friendships across the internet that have translated into real life (this past May I visited the Harry Potter exhibit in New York City with a friend I met in person for the first time. We were drawn together years ago on Livejournal via our mutual love for all things Harry Potter.) Add to that, in October 2007, I had the chance to meet JK Rowling herself. I’ve met many authors in my time as a reader but she truly was the culminating author-reader experience. Harry Potter has been with me for high school, college, and beyond. He’s a character that feels real to me, a world that jumps out of the pages and brings me joy and unites me with fellow readers all over the world. Even if they aren’t Harry Potter fans themselves, it’s fun to discuss just why they haven’t fallen into the HP hoopla. Me, I’m a Harry Potter addict and though this is the last movie, I don’t see my addiction to all things Harry Potter ending any time soon. Some people are nerds for Star Wars. Me, I’m a nerdy reader with a mad love for Harry Potter.
Faythe Arrondondo: I graduated with my MLIS in May 2007. I finished my program in an 18 month period and was exhausted. I thought when I graduated I would be itching to read books for fun, but I just couldn’t. I’ve always been a good reader, so I was shocked that I had no desire to read…until Deathly Hallows came out. I read the book the day it came out. Then I read it again a week later. That book broke whatever cycle/funk I was in, like only Harry Potter can.
Erin Daly: I first discovered Harry Potter in high school, read the books through college, and eagerly awaited the final two books as a library clerk and graduate student. When the first movie came out my college friends and I went to see it twice that day. While the world watched Harry Potter grow up, I was growing up with him. Harry helped carry me through high school and college to where I am now, just having completed my first year as a Young Adult Librarian. I’m wearing my Gryffindor shirt at work today, something we YA folk can do, eagerly anticipating going to see Deathly Hallows part 2 this evening.
Laura Perenic: Having just hosted a Harry Potter program for teens, I know I will really miss having more of these activities to celebrate upcoming book and movie releases. Our ‘Amazing Race’ style trivia game allowed the teens free run of the library in search of horcruxes. At the end, one boy asked if we “could do this again next year” and for a moment I didn’t know how to reply. There hasn’t been a series of books with such a universal following in such a long time it is hard to imagine something equally captivating being published any time soon. I hope to read more books by J.K. Rowling even they aren’t forays into the universe of Harry Potter.
Sharon Rawlins: I’m sad that this is the last HP film being released but happy that so many people who are planning on seeing it (or saw it at midnight last night or earlier today) have read the books and are fans of the series. A whole generation of kids grew up reading these books! What’s so amazing and wonderful to me is that Rowling’s books are so beloved all over the world, not just in the US. It seems every time one of the books in the series was being released I was traveling abroad. I was in Australia in 1999 when HR and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released and there was as much excitement there as in the States. I have to admit I didn’t start reading the series right away. I purchased my own copy of HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was in Israel in the airport with the adult cover and the British title. Once I read it I was hooked! What other series had libraries signing confidentiality agreements not to circulate the book until the release date? No advance galleys were ever available so that’s why any buzz about the books made instant headlines. That’s why I get such a kick out of the part in the movie The Devil Wears Prada when Anne Hathaway is ordered to get a galley of the next HP book & does it! – a nearly impossible feat in the real world. Rowling made reading her well-written books an event; something to look forward to and celebrate.
Casey O’Leary: For me, Harry Potter ended in July of 2007, when the last book came out. I devoured it and finished it in three days. It was a personally challenging time for me, and it was the last joyous moment I remember having for a while that year. I love that J.K. Rowling had a vision for the storyline that began with the first book and ended with the seventh book. She’s an incredible writer and the books are so lovingly crafted, as are the films. I’m now sharing the books and movies with my own children.
Becky O’Neil: I was late to the Harry Potter craze due to not wanting to jump on the bandwagon, but I’m glad I finally did. Some things deserve all the acclaim that they get, and HP is one of them. For some reason, I took a long break in the middle of reading the series, and finally brought books 4 and 5 along on a family vacation, with my sister warning me that “things get really dark” in Order of the Phoenix. She was right, and what’s more, I don’t remember anything about that vacation except leaving the books to eat and sleep, all the while wondering what would happen next, and walking around in a stupor populated by all the fascinating characters, plot twists, and food for thought.