Life Lessons Harry Potter Taught Me is now available! For publicity inquiries, please contact Molly Conway at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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An approachable and inspiring series of short essays that examines the greatest YA series ever with a combination of adult literary criticism and childhood curiosity.
From light to dark, Albus to Voldemort, the essays in this book discuss girl power, the importance of words, fate vs. free will, the lines between good and evil, and, above all, the magic and power of love.
Excerpt from “Petrificus Totalus: On Bravery”
One afternoon, standing in the hallway of the school where I teach, I was a coward. One of my students stood there talking to another former student. He, the former student, did not seem to recognize me. He stood asking my other student question after question. She smiled in the way all women have learned to—to appease someone without trying to encourage them, to keep them from getting upset. She made occasional eye contact with him, but otherwise tried to look elsewhere. She turned just a little bit so that she was not directly facing him. He continued talking, despite her obvious cues that she was trying to leave. I caught her eye and gave her a sympathetic smile. That’s it. I went inside my classroom. I left.
As both of their professor, I was in a position of power and I failed to intervene. The student was not in danger, of course, but every bit of her body language suggested she was trapped somewhere she did not want to be. All it would have taken was for me to step in and say hello, and ask if she had a minute to speak to me. She would’ve been free to decline. Why didn’t I? Even as a professor, I’d gotten stuck in that old, shy habit of not wanting to bother anyone. I justified it to myself—she didn’t need my help, anyway. I didn’t want to be too pushy. But these are justifications for only one version of this story. What if she did need help? What then?
When the time comes for us to be bold, we sometimes shrink. Being bold means being visible, vulnerable. It is easier to let ourselves be carried than to carry others.
Perhaps the biggest lesson we can learn from the Harry Potter series is how to be brave. We learn this lesson from observing the opposite: fear. We see fear in the Dursleys: their fear of Hagrid, of Hogwarts, of magic, of Sirius, and of anything out of the ordinary. We see fear in Fudge and in the wizarding community’s avoidance of facing Voldemort’s return. We see fear in Dumbledore’s tendency to avoid telling the whole truth. We see fear in Ron and in Lupin as they try to face difficulty. We see fear in the violence of the Death Eaters and Voldemort. And we see fear in Harry every time someone he loves is threatened and he must face the unexpected. But each time, he does as Emily Dickinson says: “If your nerve deny you / go above your nerve.”