I’ve paused the interview that J.K. Rowling did with Oprah Winfrey. It’s just that I feel quite overwhelmed. At the moment the huge messy ball of my thoughts is not showing any signs of organising itself, but I’d like to at least attempt to convey what it’s about.
For over a year I’ve felt quite distant from the Harry Potter fandom, and from the story and “The Feeling.” Without getting into a massive debate about tier systems, I have very much felt that the fandom as I knew it has disappeared and what is left is a community where we have made certain people celebrities. It makes me hugely uncomfortable. I couldn’t exactly tell you why. Perhaps some part of me feels that celebrity is not what I signed up for. What drew me to the fandom was the people all over the world, from different families and religions and countries, who were on the same journey that I was. We were all Harry. We were all learning about how important love is, how important loyalty, friends, hard work are.
|Me and Martha, queuing for Deathly Hallows. 2007|
Listening to Jo Rowling speak about what it was like for her on the other side of the typewriter, about how she had no idea that there were children and adults alike reading the books and becoming involved in such a dramatic and emotional way, rekindled The Feeling for me. Honestly it really has been a long time. And how can I put into words what I’ve been through with these books, what they’ve done for me or how I’ve experienced them?
Let me explain for a moment what The Feeling is. (Although, I know that if you are reading this as a HP fan, I don’t really need to.)
When it’s an early autumnal morning, everything’s crisp and quiet and there is a mist hovering above the grass, you may experience The Feeling. It’s almost as though the world is completely yours and only you know its secrets. That there’s some strength or power you get from that. It’s very difficult to describe an emotion in the first place. If all your friends and family turned up to surprise you with love and hugs, the feeling you would experience in the middle of the night when they’re all asleep and it’s quiet is “The Feeling.”
It’s kind of like “I feel so lucky to be alive that I’m slightly melancholy.” Strange, but so am I.
I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I was twelve years old. I’ve always felt different to my peers. And adults. And people younger than me. For some reason I’ve always felt just a little bit out of step. I tend to think of things differently, or imagine things differently. I’m convinced that this is a reason that I can’t fathom poetry: it resonates COMPLETELY differently for me. I never saw what everyone in my class at school saw.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been shy or felt that being different was a very bad thing. It’s just always been that way. Even something as small as like being the curly-haired girl in a class or straight-haired people. I’ve just always felt different. I’ve never seen a reason to be shy. When my school friends avoided raising their voices, I’d be the one shouting or singing or just asking questions.
It’s my nature to be that way, definitely. And even though I never felt that I had to seek solace anywhere, I definitely found reinforcement in the Harry Potter books. Hogwarts was a place where EVERYONE was different. No one tried to be the same as anyone else. Each character had their own strengths and each character was on his or her own personal journey. They got through it all because they had individual power and the love of their friends.
I needed to see that. To this day, I’m not sure if a world exists where everyone feels okay being themselves all the time. I am myself all the time and I certainly feel that in some places Amy is frowned upon. But I needed to see that someone else believes that it’s okay to think differently, or to be ‘strange.’ In the Harry Potter books, it’s the idiosyncrasies of the characters that makes them so lovable and so memorable.
Jo Rowling didn’t know it, but she and I were having a long conversation. She was teaching me how to feel things like loyalty, friendship, strength, love and grief and to understand what they meant.
My mother died when I was 15 years old, a good three years after I had started reading HP. It was sudden and unexpected. One day everything was fine, the next day I was told my mum was dying. Obviously it wasn’t as straight forward as “I understood grief because of JK so I was fine,” but I was certainly familiar with the concepts and emotions that came next. I recognised what I was going through because I’d been through it already with Harry. During my particularly dark periods, I could relate to Harry. I never felt a hundred percent alone.
|The WZRD Staff. Terminus, Chicago, IL August 2008|
There is so much I could say. I could talk about Terminus, about how much it meant to me to go and spend time with people who had been on the same journey as me. I could talk about how much I’ve gained from being the the fandom in terms of work experience and life experience. I could talk about you, my friends, who I’m sure wouldn’t be reading if not for J.K. Rowling. Yet, I feel sure that she doesn’t understand what she has done for so many people. I know that, simply because she is human, she can’t begin to fathom the way she has touched so many people’s lives. Maybe she thinks that we read and enjoy and are inspired.
But it’s so much more than that.
|Birmingham, UK. October 2007|
|New Canaan, CT, USA. January 2008|
|With Squib Girl. Providence, RI, USA. January 2008|
|With Camie and Grace at FAO Schwartz, NYC January 2008|
|LeakyCon, Boston, MA. July 2009|
|The Snow Ball, Edinburgh, Scotland.