Growing up with Harry Potter

From this New Yorker article about JK Rowling and her new novel:

“[Harvard scholar of children’s literature, Maria] Tatar’s students grew up with the books. “You can’t imagine what happens when I just say ‘Harry Potter,’ ” she said. “They’re transported. And they start to speak Harry Potter among themselves, and I feel like an alien.” Many of her students report that, as children, they learned about learning from the books’ depiction of Hogwarts. “It reshaped their understanding of what education was about—and what adults were about. They could recruit these adults and have them help landscape their lives.””

I grew up just before Harry Potter really took hold, and I remember lots of books and television shows that didn’t feature adults. Parents were generally absent and teachers were pretty nonexistent. I like Rowling’s presentation of adults like Dumbledore, Snape, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. They’re not perfect by any means. They have their own flaws and concerns. But Harry depends on and learns from them in very different ways. I think it’s good that kids growing up have a sense of what it means to relate to adults.

And then something I find a little alarming:

“In Edinburgh, I met Alan Taylor, a journalist and the editor of the Scottish Review of Books, who despaired of Rowling’s “tin ear” and said of her readers, “They were giving their childhood to this woman! They were starting at seven, and by the time they were sixteen they were still reading bloody Harry Potter—sixteen-year-olds, wearing wizard outfits, who should have been shagging behind the bike shed and smoking marijuana and reading Camus.””

First of all, who’s to say that these activities are all mutually exclusive? You only have to look at Tumblr to see that. Second, some of us we not hooking up at underground music concerts at 16–and that’s okay. Why does Taylor assume that there’s a “right” way to be a teenager, and that that way must involve a cliched form of rebellion?

There’s a lot in this article, so make sure to read the rest.

3 thoughts on “Growing up with Harry Potter

  1. Keri Peardon says:

    16 year olds? There is–I kid you not–a Quidditch association at the college level and they get together to play one another. (

    Little does Mr. Taylor realize that this is just a new pair-bonding ritual in which those of the species homo geekus form pair-bonds, some of which lead directly to mating and reproduction.

    I should know. I am of a closely-related cousin species, homo nerdus (we can interbreed with homo geekus, but our offspring tend to be sterile… meaning they grow up to be lawyers or accountants or something respectable like that). While dressed up in medieval clothing at a weekend event dedicated to the study and re-enacting of the European middle ages, I met a man. After many shows of prowess on the fighting field, I accepted his honorable proposal of marriage.

    How’s this for rebellion: Mr. Taylor should stop trying to put people into a box. If we like dressing up as Harry Potter or as knights and ladies, that’s our business.

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