On June 26, 1997, struggling author J.K. Rowling’s first novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was finally published by Bloomsbury in the UK after multiple rejections from other companies. It was published the next year in America by Scholastic under the name Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Today marks 20 years since Harry Potter was officially introduced – 20 years of the scrawny, black-haired, green-eyed, bespectacled boy enchanting readers all over the world.
Two decades of the cultural phenomenon have spawned a 7-book series, several additional books from the Harry Potter universe, a published script, nine films (with more to come), a play on West End and Broadway, a popular website, and one of the biggest fandoms to ever exist. The films jump-started the careers of several young actors, and the books have contributed to boosting literacy.
I was late to the Harry Potter party. I was in middle school when the books were becoming popular in America, but I refused to read them because I felt as though they were too silly for me. I disregarded them for years, until my friends convinced me to give it a go. I was 17, and it was a couple of months before the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I was complaining about the mania surrounding the series, and a friend of mine remarked that I should really read the books before criticizing them. She loaded me up with the first 5 books and sent me on my way.
I started reading on Friday evening, and finished the 5th book Sunday evening. I had barely slept at all – I was completely taken with J.K. Rowling’s magical world. I finally understood that thrill of getting my hands on a copy of the newest book at midnight. I joined in the massive online fandom and made friends from all over the world who all had that deep love for Harry Potter in common.
I occasionally reread the whole series. It is still a magical experience, and let me tell you – those deaths never get easier! I’ve taken the official Pottermore sorting quiz (thankfully I already own a good amount of green, because the Sorting Hat shouted, “SLYTHERIN!”) and I have a photo taken of me at Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross. I hope to one day visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando and the Warner Bros studios where Harry Potter was filmed in the UK.
On this 20th anniversary of Harry Potter’s introduction to the Muggle world, I want to hear from you! Which House have you been sorted into? Favorite book? Favorite character? What does Harry Potter mean to you?