The first face I see every morning is Daniel Radcliffe’s. Taped above my bedside table, the Harry Potter poster I may or may not have stolen from my sister sits just where I put it when I was in middle school. It’s been seven years since the last Harry Potter book was released, but inside and outside my room, the series lives on.
We all can appreciate the statistics–the over 400 million copies the books have sold, the 60 languages the series has been translated into, the approximately 15 billion dollars the Harry Potter brand is worth. But for those of us who have stuck with Harry since the beginning, the true story isn’t in the numbers. For me, at least, the Harry Potter fandom gave me my first real sense of a global community. Before I had a Facebook, I had a MuggleNet account; my siblings and I would scroll through online forums and bicker about our favorite theories. (Yes, we were nerdy kids). I used to fall asleep to podcasts by people twice my age, speculating over which characters would live or die. Even when my sister had friends over, I could instantly connect with them by talking about the latest J.K. Rowling news. My role as a PotterHead allowed me to expand my world beyond what my ten-year-old self considered possible. I’ll always be grateful for that.
Deeper than the community, though, is the mark the series itself left on our generation. The seven volumes were more than just books we read on long drives: they served as instruction manuals, tutorials on how to live moral lives. As Harry struggled with the universe’s greatest questions, we too were coaxed into thinking about death, the afterlife, and the endeavor to be good people. We wrestled with the same philosophical dilemmas; we could even sympathize with Harry’s terrible first dates. Watching Harry grow up framed the template for my own adolescence, and while mine was wizard-free (despite my crying on my eleventh birthday when I didn’t get a Hogwarts letter) I felt that Harry and I had a lot in common.
The fanfare surrounding the books may have died down, but our world still hasn’t forgotten the boy wizard. News about J.K. Rowling continues to fill headlines. A new addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studio’s Potter themed park in Florida, debuted earlier this month. A nineteen-year-old friend of mine finally gave into reading Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time, although he insists on reading the series in French. And last week, after a horrific shooting killed all but one member of a Texas family, the surviving fifteen-year-old quoted from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to show her strength.
As for me, I don’t think I’ll be bringing my Daniel Radcliffe poster to college. But perhaps I’ll hand it down to my eight-year-old brother–who spent a day last month consuming the first book in the series, then shut the cover, looked at me with wide eyes, and said, “When can I read the next one?”
Svensson, Peter 2 (27 March 2012). “Harry Potter breaks e-book lockdown – Yahoo! News”. News.yahoo.com. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
Allsobrook, Dr. Marian (18 June 2003). “Potter’s place in the literary canon”. BBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2007.