Reading has always been a very solitary experience for me. Being of an introverted nature and growing up in a rural, West Virginia town, I feel very fortunate to have lived only a block away from the library. As such, many of my childhood memories are of me perusing the shelves, hoping to discover my next great adventure. I’m not exactly sure when I realized that not everyone was as enamored with the act of reading as I was, but sometime during my teenage life, I learned to keep silent about my enthusiasm. The thing I struggled with the most was that even among my fellow readers, I didn’t seem to be able to connect on specific books. Any early fan of classics, my peers often considered my reading taste to be boring, which was disappointing because I wanted to share my beloved stories with others.
Fast forward to my adulthood and the release of the Harry Potter books. It was right after the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when a friend brought them to my attention. “I don’t know,” I replied, “You know I don’t really have any interest in fantasy.” Her response was simple: “These books are for everyone.” And she was right – five days later, and all four novels under my belt, I was a truly converted fanatic. One of the best parts of this new obsession was that I wasn’t alone in it. Everywhere I turned, I found other readers, of all ages, desperate to discuss their enjoyment with others. In many ways, as a reader, this was the first time I had ever felt really seen by my peers. I couldn’t get over what a huge community I had found simply by stepping outside of my comfort zone. Even this, however, wasn’t enough to prepare me for how completely the sense of community would impact my life.
As it would turn out, I ended up living almost two thousand miles from home because of Harry Potter. But, let me start at the beginning. While I was working in a residence hall at my local University, I was struggling to carry my laundry back to my room after an ankle injury. My friend, and the housing director at the time, asked another student if he would help me. He agreed, although I’m sure it was reluctantly, because we had been involved in a few disagreements over the course of the school year. Upon entering my room, however, his whole demeanor changed as he noticed my Harry Potter display on the top of my bookcases. Three hours later he left my room and we were on the road to becoming the very best of friends. The only thread we had in common, was our love for the Wizarding World, but that was enough for us to build on, each of us trusting the other’s tastes in books, movies, and general activities. After graduation, I even accompanied him across country when he received a pretty awesome job offer. I give all of the credit to reading the Harry Potter books. We never would have had a real conversation otherwise.
So, here I am, a girl from small town West Virginia, living in the big city of Phoenix. During my two years here, I’ve made many new connections based on the novels. For starters, the majority of my BookTube, Twitter, and Instagram contacts were made because of a mutual love for the Harry Potter books. Also, one of the most memorable days I’ve had at my job was when a co-worker (and co-fangirl) and I mourned the death of Alan Rickman together. I’ve also never have a week commuting to work where I haven’t ended up having a conversation with a stranger over The Boy Who Lived.
So to all the skeptics out there – think I’m exaggerating? That’s fine, I challenge you to go to any public place and pull out a paperback copy of any of the Harry Potter novels. It won’t take long for you to see what I mean. I guarantee you’ll make a new friend. Why is this? Because the world of Harry Potter is no longer simply a series of books. Or a movie franchise. Harry Potter is an experience. It’s a movement. It’s a unifying thread in a world where there is so much division. Perhaps it is these divisions that lure us into the books, encourage us to seek out a Hogwarts, to look for a Dumbledore that would lead us, and to show us that we can unite despite our differences. In a world with magic, even one with a Voldemort, there is still an abundance of hope. We often need this Wizarding World to remind us to fight for our own.
In closing, I know my story is not unique. Harry Potter has affected readers of all ages. All classes. All races. All religions. All nationalities. We are a diverse community. We are passionate and friendly and welcoming; even when we have nothing else in common with one another but our love for the Wizarding World. If J.K. Rowling never accomplishes anything else, she should be recognized for giving us that – the precious gift of community, in an otherwise solitary world.