Hogwarts, My History

I was in third or fourth grade when I saw a book on my friend Jessica’s desk that looked mildly interesting. I had loved to read ever since I learned how about 5 years prior to this scene, but I don’t remember if at this point my mom chose my books for me, or I chose them on my own. I do remember going to one of Queens, New York’s many public library branches, and in subsequent years, East Meadow Public Library (also New York). In any case, Jessica’s mom had taken her to the book store, where she bought this book and it was her new favorite. So I decided I wanted to try it out too.

A few months later on my birthday, my wish was granted. My neighbor purchased the soft cover edition of Sorcerer’s Stone and presented it to me. This is the first book I remember devouring. I didn’t want to watch tv, or listen to my walkman. This became a pattern. My aunt used to go to a charitable auction and happened at one point to win the first three books in hardcover. I reread the first book, and began the second. What an epic adventure the Chamber of Secrets held! I read eagerly as Harry heard voices in the walls (and I couldn’t fall asleep because I was scared!) I loved to watch Harry’s friendship with Ron and Hermione grow. The Burrough became my dream home. I wanted nothing more than to be a witch spirited away on a candy apple red engine to a magical school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I read the third book twice, back to back.I didn’t understand it the first time I read it. There was no Voldemort, the time-traveling, the betrayal and suspicion. This book has steadfast become my favorite in the series and one I think about often. Doing a reread of the series now in my late twenties has been, as a writer, eye-opening. The pacing, the characterization (so many fully developed characters!!!!) As a reader, my heart breaks for the loss that so many characters have lived through, even before the fourth book even starts. Hagrid lost out on his education and therefore, a huge section of his adulthood was marred by a past that wasn’t even his. Harry lost his parents so young, and was raised by people who hated him. Ron’s family are such good people, who work hard, and have nothing (material… but they have everything like love, and hope, and family). Dobby shows the plight of those who are seen as less-than.

I am two chapters into the Goblet of Fire, so don’t mind my not mentioning books 4-7 yet. But I have already become misty-eyed remembering what is to come, and the devastating losses I will have to relive.

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Rereading Harry Potter has brought up a lot of emotion within me. As a millennial born in 1990, I was part of the first generation who grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. My copies were well loved, well worn, and reread many times. However, as college got harder and more involved, and becoming a grown up got in the way, I had to set the magic aside for a few years. This is my first reread as not only an adult with an apartment and bills, but my first true read as an adult who is far enough away from the ages of Harry and co. to understand more than I did before.

The Sorcerer’s Stone is of course the first novel (Philosopher’s Stone to most of the rest of the world). It’s not the best in the series, but it’s a perfect set up for the events to come. I recently wrote a paper based on this book and the second about death.

I’m currently in the middle of The Chamber of Secrets, and so many old memories of reading these books in bed, in various homes, in school, are coming back to me. Like Pretty Little Liars has become for me now, Harry Potter is my comfort blanket. Going back to Hogwarts has been amazing so far.

Thoughts on The Cursed Child?.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng Sparkles Celestially ;)

Everything I Never Told You is a novel by woman of color, writer of color, Celeste Ng, that discusses the limitations of race and gender in the 70’s, but is sadly still relevant today. Although the character whom this book is centered around dies in the beginning (not a spoiler), it is evident that Lydia wants to do everything her mother ever told her… but what about everything Marilyn never told her, and vice versa?

Marilyn has had to make a painful choice between “right” and “wrong,” career (passion) and family (duty). Men often get to choose if they want to be fathers, but women still don’t get to choose whether they want to be mothers. Marilyn and James have three children – Lydia, Nath, and Hannah. Lydia is blue-eyed and light skinned, making her the favorite. She’s the one who is expected to go far, and make something of herself that her mother never could. Nath is an aspiring astronaut, but his parents often neglect his feelings and thoughts to set their attention on Lydia – who desperately does not want the attention. Poor Hanna is lost in the shuffle, but will she be found?

 

There are mother-daughter, mother-son, father-son, father-daughter, and mother-father/husband-wife, motifs to explore and more, not to mention the relationships between siblings.

 

Ng writes evocatively and completely understands show, don’t tell. She doesn’t say people are/were racist. She doesn’t say why Marilyn and James are constantly fighting the urge to let their kids grow, and try to change them and mold them. The reader has all of the context clues. I was born in 1990, long after the events of this novel take place, but through Ng’s writing I was able to acutely understand the culture and timeframe. My mother is a white woman, married to my stepfather who is a Chinese man. Together, they have my youngest sister. The subtle and not so subtle racism in this novel was on point. Towards the end of the story, I was a puddle. I cannot explain enough how perfectly Ng gets the family dynamic, the racial dynamic, and the time period, let alone how wonderful the pacing of the novel was. it never got boring, or too much too soon. I will definitely be picking up another Celeste Ng novel in my future.

 

Enjoy some quotes:

 

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“If her mother ever came home and told her to finish her milk, she thought, the page wavering to a blur, she would finish her milk. She would brush her teeth without being asked and stop crying when the doctor gave her shots. She would go to sleep the second her mother turned out the light. She would never get sick again. She would do everything her mother ever told her. Everything her mother wanted”

 

p 143

 

“As the young woman closed the gash with neat black stitches, Marilyn’s hands began to ache. She clenched her teeth, but the ache spread into her wrists, up to her shoulders, down her spine. It wasn’t the surgery. It was the disappointment: tha lie everyone else, she heard doctor and still thought – would forever think – man. The rims of her eyes started to burn… Marilyn blurted out, “I think I’m pregnant,” and burst into tears.

Fifth Grade Teacher Sparks Imagination to Last a Lifetime

“I got these rocks from the beach over the summer. I want you to each come up and take the rock that calls to you. Then, we will decorate them.” I looked around Mrs. Wirth’s fifth grade classroom. An easel stood in front of the blackboard. There was a large pad of white paper, which hung on the easel, and on the paper there was a drawing of a crescent moon with a Shel Silverstein quote written neatly and deliberately next to it. A clothesline hung from wall to wall. The bucket of rocks was in front of the room, on the floor, waiting for us to make our choices.

When it’s my turn, I go up to the front of the classroom and pick through the bucket. I come up with an oval shaped rock, glittering silver and black, and take it back to my desk.

“Decorate them however you like for the next twenty minutes, and then we’ll talk.”

I write my name, ‘e r i n,’ on the rock, my markers cut up from the grainy surface. I draw a rainbow around my name, and I place it on my desk, awaiting further instruction.

“These will be our paperweights.”

“Let’s all decide on a career. Pick any career you’d like to have, and that will be a major focus for you this year.” I knew right away what I wanted, staring at my Lisa Frank folder with smiling dolphins looking back at me. A marine biologist. Every morning we had to write in our career journals, a special project that would take the whole year. I took my new vocation very seriously, diligently writing each morning about my life as a marine biologist, studying dolphins and turtles, handing in my reports on time, always.

That year we made travel brochures. I chose the Belize and focused on the wildlife.

We read poetry by Silverstein, and wrote our own. Mrs. Wirth read us chapters from House on Mango Street, and assigned us to write memoirs in class.

I didn’t sleep much that year. I was up late with poems and ideas swirling around in my head. One night, a persistent poem would not stop replaying in my mind until I wrote it down, sneaking in the darkness of my bedroom so my mother would not hear me and know I was awake.

When will my dreams,

Come up from the depth of their valley,

And soar into reality,

To penetrate into the truth?

When I went to school the next day, I showed it to Mrs. Wirth. “This is beautiful! I’m going to hang it up on the wall with our Founding Fathers projects. Is that okay?”

I affirmed.

Later that week was Parent’s day.

“Did you see the poem I wrote, mom?”

“You wrote that? I thought it was a quote from a book you read.”

Mrs. Wirth nurtured my writing. When I wrote a short story for an assignment, she worked with me on structure and hooking the audience. “What if we started the story in the middle of the action?” Whether I was interested in writing mystery, adventure, or about my “career” as a marine biologist, Mrs. Wirth and her hand drawn Shel Silverstein posters were cheering me on.

Before and after Mrs. Wirth, I was blessed with great, kind teachers. But without a doubt, I would not be the reader and writer I am today without her. Without her feeding my mind with poetry, memoir, writing tips, and the freedom to be who I wanted to be –whether a marine biologist or a writer, I would have given up two years later when my English teacher was failing me. I would have given up on college when I had a disastrous first semester.

Mrs. Wirth gave me the confidence to succeed. Years later, I was with a friend, and mentioned my class. “I had Mrs. Wirth too, the year after you! She became the principal of the high school, you know.” I didn’t . I had moved during the summer after her class, to a new district, my career notebook, Belize flyer, and other work lost in the shuffle of a move and parents who were loving, but not sentimental about school assignments, or their kids’ aspirations.

Thank you, Mrs. Wirth. You live up to your name.

the end as i know it

for six years i have eagerly anticipated tuesday evenings on the on season. every tuesday night at 8 pm on abc family (now freeform) brought me the best part of my week, pretty little liars. and now the magic is coming to an end…

when i was about 19 and unemployed for the first time since i started working, i was in a really low place. my parents were divorcing, i had just come home from being in a really bad dorming situation at school, feeling like a failure who couldn’t handle college, and i really needed to get away from it all.

my grandmother’s apartment was my refuge. she lived in a three family house in queens, new york, that had been in my family for over a century. i spent many weeks there, living out of my backpack and her generosity, of which i cannot thank her enough, and i owe her more than the world for.

in that backpack was a set of four books i had bought at target with some of the little money i had left… sara shepard’s pretty little liars series. i devoured them. one a day. i had to get more. i think there are about 16-18 books in the series. after i ate up the first four, i went back out and got all that was available. they were dark, funny, mysterious, and a little scary. who was this night stalker? how did they know everyone’s secrets?

when i found out there was going to be a show, i bugged out in a good way. now i could see my beloved characters come to life (in the books, spencer and hanna were my favorites; i wasn’t crazy about emily or aria).

every tuesday rain or shine, work or not, school or not, i was watching my show. i laughed, cried, and felt every emotion in between. i rooted for spoby (until season 3!!!! now i am anti-spoby), worked out my feelings for ezria (uh… illegal/gross, romanticized… i like them now that they are both adults but also recognize the psychology still at play), and fell in love with haleb (uh caleb… you’re losing my trust rapidly!). i could go on for hours about theories, plot holes, and my feelings, both rational and irr-. but i will just say…

this show has been a friend to me when i had no one, when i had nothing, and when i was an unsure teenager. this show has continued to be a friend to me when i have gained and lost things and people. these girls are my friends. their story is my story. the metaphors for growing up and feeling under the public eye are all true.

today, pretty little liars enters its seventh and final season and it is the most bittersweet feeling i’ve had in a long while.

 

thank you sara shepard and marlene king.