Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Open Letter of Thanks to JK Rowling

Twelve years ago I received an email from my mother-in-law asking permission to get my oldest daughter a Harry Potter book.  I hadn't heard of Harry Potter but I couldn't imagine my daughter, who was an avid reader, turning down a children's book or why she would need permission to read one.  In her email, my mother-in-law said that the reason she was asking was because the book had generated some controversy.  Controversy?  From a children's book?  Bring it on!  Without batting an eye, I replied that, yes, she should definitely get the book.

After reading it, we learned of the issue to which my mother-in-law had been referring: objections to the presence of magic in Harry's world.  I simply saw Harry as a protagonist to whom my kids could relate.  The idea that his world included magic seemed much less important than that Harry had to find his strength in working to defeat a terrible and relentless enemy.  Best of all, the characters and situations in the books created relevant parallels with the non-fiction world in which my children were living.

The Potter books not only became instant classics in our house but they provided fuel for conversations with our children--points of understanding around which much learning about life occurred.  We referred to the books when helping them wrestle with social quandaries or considering the politics of life.  It became a standing joke that "All I Need to Know in Life I Learned From Harry Potter." The Potter books joined the ranks of other epic stories that were also analogs to real life.

When the first Harry Potter movie came out, we saw it.  It wasn't as close to the book as we had hoped but we didn't mind because it brought the characters and world to life and that was the point.  I refined my meager sewing skills as I copied the costumes from this movie, making school uniforms and Quidditch costumes.  These were worn to book release parties where my kids delightedly won contests: one for her amazing recall of Harry Potter trivia and the other for her appearances as characters from the books.  Our wizard costume collection grew over time as the kids got older and their parents wanted in on the action.

What we are faced with, in the release of the final movie, is not only the bittersweet end of an era but what feels like the end of childhood for my kids who are now at university and secondary school.  It is the closure of a very distinct and well-remembered chapter in our collective lives.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for bringing together my family, giving us something to talk about, and creating a world in which we will always dwell together.  It was amazing to discover the elements of Harry's magical world but it was even more amazing to refer to this world and it's populace while helping our children explore the realities of the one in which we must all dwell.  Your books gave us a means to really connect with our children that has been incredibly helpful and fantastically fun.  You gave us more dinner conversations and "ride home from school" conversations than I can count and, in so doing, kept our kids talking to and confiding in us for the last dozen years.  You are amazing and we owe you so much!

1 comment:

  1. Not only do I whole-heartedly agree with this, but I also love the way you wrote it. Harry Potter gave me all the lessons one would need to succeed in life and I owe Jo so much for creating a world many of us see as one thing: an escape. From school, from work, from life. I know my kids will grow up with Harry Potter just like I did, because it taught me everything. <3