Yes, We’re Reading Harry Potter 7
I am, once again, eating my words. Remember how I said that we were a long way from starting Harry Potter 7? Yeah, not so much. Our plan had been to read the His Dark Materials trilogy next, but the ChickieNob started getting stressed about spoilers. A lot of their friends were reading book 7, and the chances were increasing that someone would accidentally say something in front of them.
That, of course, is not a reason to race head-first into a book you’re not ready to read, but what cemented the deal was that she finally explained why she wasn’t ready. She didn’t want to start book 7 because that meant the series ended. She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t upset. She just didn’t want to get to the last book.
Once I explained that we were going to do an infinite loop of Potter, and that the end of book 7 was only a halfway point in understanding the series — we still needed to read them a second time through once she understood all the back stories because she would have a different understanding of the other 6 books — she told me she was ready. So we sat down and started.
Actually, first we had a 5 hour marathon session of reading aloud Wonder. Had to finish the book we were on. My throat was a little scratchy after that, but you do what you need to do when your child is biting her lip, urging you to race the spoiler clock. After we finished Wonder, we opened 7 and read the first few chapters.
This is what I’ll say about book 7, and this is a complete assumption since I only have my own point-of-view, but I strongly suspect this is true: it is very different to read this book as a minority (especially part of a group that has been through a historically recent or current mass genocide) than as part of the majority. It is very different to read about Voldemort’s plan to exterminate Muggle-borns and create a pureblood race of wizards. It is very different, especially in light of continued anti-Semitism in the world, especially Europe.
The twins read. The twins hear adults talking. They know about Copenhagan. They know about Paris. They know about Berlin. They were keenly aware of the differences that came from going to shul in London vs. going to shul at home. They know what is going on.
None of us can read and process book 7 as a Muggle-born wizard, but Jewish children (and many other minority groups) can read these books through a lens of being cognizant of the hate that exists in this world. It doesn’t create a deeper reading, but it creates a different reading. I sense that some kids process these books differently from their white, Christian, straight, non-disabled friends.
Reading the books together — and I’m a strong believer that Harry Potter books should be read together with adults whenever possible — has raised a lot of questions about hate; questions to which there are no sufficient answers. It stands against reason that the very same people who currently perpetuate that hate are also sometimes people who have read Harry Potter. Isn’t that odd? That you can have someone read these books and still come away from them believing their own cultural or religious or sexual superiority?
Sort of misses the whole point of the series.