20 Years.

Thank you.

JK Rowling has always been a great source of inspiration to me. Growing up with her books, I always felt like I had a home within the magical world of Harry Potter. I didn’t always fit in as a child, but at Hogwarts, I knew I belonged. That world she imagined became the dominant pillar of my childhood, and it’s incredibly difficult to believe it, but it’s now been exactly 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published in the UK. So for the amazing experiences, the memories, and for the experiences more real than most on this earth, thank you.

I first heard Harry Potter when I was in the third grade. Our third grade teacher, Ms. Ross, would often pick out books to read to us. These were some of my favorite memories from elementary school. And I remember one student whose name is no longer in my memory bank, although I do remember that he was a friend of Taiwanese descent, asked her to read us this book titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It was a little intimidating for us, as she had never before read us a book so large. But her decision to challenge us, as was her norm, changed my life forever. Over the weeks and months that followed, the story of Harry, Hagrid, Ron, and Hermione easily became my favorite moments in school. A fascination was born. I had finally arrived home.

I rushed to the library. The story continued didn’t it, and the Chamber of Secrets followed. What a story that was. As much as I loved the first book, this was so much better. I remember being stunned by the revelation that Tom Riddle was actually Voldemort. My absolute love for all things Oliver Wood. And the introduction of Dobby. To this day, I continue to wear mismatching socks as a tribute to Dobby. RIP you Free Elf.

Interestingly enough, this book also made me fall in love with the English language. There was so much new vocabulary introduced to me in this book, and it didn’t scare me away. Instead, it expanded my world. The castle began to feel more real than the halls of my school.

The Prisoner of Azkaban. That ending. That twist. Rowling had taught me to expect the unexpected from her. I couldn’t predict anything. I could only enjoy the ride. Hate Sirius. Love Sirius. Poor Peter. Damn you Peter! Wait, Lupin is a WHAT?!?

The Goblet of Fire. When I first read the Goblet of Fire, it blew me away. Every single thing that I loved in the Harry Potter series was taken up to 11. The fourth Harry Potter book remains special in my heart. Because while I ended up liking the sixth and seventh books better, this was the book that made me know. This wasn’t some really, really, great book series. This was now a major part of my identity. Harry Potter was now a permanent, wonderful, magical piece of my own story. What a book that was. What a story. The tournament. Harry and Ron’s friendship. EVERYTHING ABOUT MAD-EYE. You know how weird it was for me, going from loving Mad-Eye as a new favorite character, to the realization that it was he who had engineered EVERYTHING? I love, love, love, Goblet of Fire. JK Rowling, you magical writer.

The Order of the Phoenix. This was the book where I felt a stronger connection to Harry than any of the other six books. So much of what he was going through, of what he was feeling, I could familiarize with. It was the closest I ever felt to the character of Harry Potter.

Nothing needs to be said about the sixth book. Easily my favorite of the seven. I need not say anything about this masterpiece.

And the finale. Nothing could have prepared me for what I ended up learning about Dumbledore and Snape. If there was one thing I thought I’d never question, it was how I felt about Dumbledore and Snape. But hats off JK Rowling. You are, truly, a literary genius.

I love this world so much. I’m excited to see where it goes. I loved the Fantastic Beasts  movie, and I can’t wait to see what magic lies in the years to come. This world means more to me than anything I’ve experienced here on earth.

Because here’s my reality, and those of you who’ve read my previous posts would already know this, but belonging has never been something I’ve been good at. Often times people say having a foot in two cultures is like having the best of both worlds. For me, I would often feel like I didn’t belong in either. Too Egyptian for America. Too American for Egypt. I belonged in this world. And as a young child, struggling to find a home in a confusing world, growing up in two cultures that did not see the other in a positive light, belonging to that Magical world meant everything to me. And there were so many other stories and books that I had read before, and so many books that I’ve read since finishing Harry Potter. Hundreds of amazing authors that made my life magical. But nothing ever compared to this. I never grew out of it. I re-read the books all the time. I still buy and own the books, the movies. The plays and the screenplays. I go watch the new movies in the theater. And I re-watch them. Because whenever I hear Hedwig’s theme, whenever I see wands and spells, horn rimed glasses and scars, I know it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world around me. Because I’m home.

And in the words of Dumbledore:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

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