I picked up the first Harry Potter book– actually, it was given to me by a kindly school librarian– when I was 12, just a year or so after the book was published in 1997. The series took a decade to complete, culminating, for me, with a trip to a bookstore in Germany to buy the UK edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows during a backpacking trip before my senior year of college. Like any piece of art that wallops you at just the right time, those books embedded themselves in my identity. Who would I have been without Harry Potter, or for that matter, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Simpsons, Monsoon Wedding, or that mural on the wall of Amoeba Records commemorating the free speech movement? (When I was a freshman in college, I walked by it twice a day and still think about it pretty often.) We are what we love, especially what we love when we are young.
So, it’s not really correct to say that I’m a “fan” of Harry Potter. It’s deeper than that. The series provided a framework for my adolescence. The first movie coincided with my first real crush, who kissed another girl at the screening and provided my first real heartbreak. I picked up the fourth book one hot high school summer and stayed up till 3 AM weeping over the return of Voldemort, my brothers collaborating on music in the next room. The sixth book came out when I was working at a mini-Borders in a shopping mall, so I remember staring at those unopened boxes in the windowless storage room, eating turkey sandwiches brought in from my parents’ house. Then there was the pinnacle seventh book that summer in Europe, a reading experience so dear that I stopped reading it on the plane in order to finish it in the privacy of my own home.