I hate reading. There. Now you know.
Let me elaborate. I hate reading fiction. It’s boring. Boring! I’m sorry. There have been notable exceptions in my life, but I find that most novels I’ve encountered past age 12 have left me thinking, “Hm, I have dishes to do” rather than in rapt awe of the prose in front of me.
I blame high school. Being forced to read books I didn’t like has basically given me a blanket aversion to all books everywhere. Which is kind of hard when you’re a bit of a geek.
I’m not really a geek, but I’m not really not a geek, either. I have geeky interests, but they’re not normal geeky interests. The Wizard of Oz, for example. I straight-up slay at Jeopardy!. If you vacation anywhere with me, I will make you visit every museum within walking distance of the local transportation network. And I’ve never been a big fan of novels, but I remain riveted by nonfiction.
That said, I’ve made it all the way to adulthood — not even young adulthood; it’s now just regular old adulthood — without touching Harry Potter.
Well, OK, that’s not true. It’s impossible to live in the developed world in 2015 without having at least some exposure to the series. I read the first few chapters of the first book with the girl I was assigned to tutor in 8th grade. And I’ve seen the first movie. A number of times, actually. It was one of the few VHSes circulating at my high school; often screened at the end of the semester when teachers were out of ideas. But I was about 15 by then, and too cool for magic.
So yes, the franchise has been present in my life, sure, but I was just never that compelled by it. Primarily because I’ve never been crazy about the fantasy genre. Kids are supposed to love that kind of stuff, but I was weird. To the degree that a 7-year-old can, I preferred reality to fantasy. Cats to dogs. Indoors to outdoors. The only interest I ever took in fantasy and fairy tale was Oz, and I took it hard (I still do — there’s a tattoo on my back that proves it). I don’t have room for a new kids-book obsession, that would just be weird.
It’s also been established, in an unspoken way, that fantasy and sci-fi just aren't for people of color. I’m not the only one that’s noticed this — it’s a hot-button issue in geek circles, even though some dedicated fans are starting to infiltrate it, and several franchises are finally starting to promote lead characters of color. While it’s not an actively exclusive world, it’s still remarkably tough (for me, anyway) to really immerse myself in it when the genre is just so damn white, and I'm, well, not. I’m half-Mexican, half-Italian: not exactly a PoC, but not a pasty Hogwartisan kid, either. Even though I was the exact right age — 12 — to consume the books when they debuted stateside in 1998, all these things combined subtly communicated that the wizarding world wasn’t for me.
But a few weeks ago I was cruising the BuzzFeed app on the household iPad, and I absentmindedly opened some Harry Potter-themed quiz.
I don’t even know why I did it. I knew none of it would make sense to me. I scrolled up and down the page, and by the end of it, I had this creeping feeling...
I really should have read those stupid books. Not understanding the basic plot is actually becoming sort of a problem in the real world.
I mean, really. My friends make references to it all the time, and even the news I consume cracks jokes about it that constantly causes me to stop, try and decipher it, realize ‘Oh, it’s a Harry Potter thing,’ and move on.
So there I was, nearly 30 and contemplating the cultural ramifications of not ever having read Harry Potter.
Maybe it’s time Harry and I get acquainted.
I turned 29 at the end of August. A few weeks before, feeling jittery from my brand-new antidepressants and trying to walk off the shakes on Campbell Avenue, I skipped into the bookstore and saw a worn-out, taped-together, used copy of the first book in the kid’s section. I gave the bookstore cat a pet (which he didn’t seem to appreciate) and left with The Sorcerer’s Stone.
Because, before I turn 30, I’m going to finally read the Harry Potter series from start to finish.
That’s...4,100 pages. There’s 348 days left until I hit 30. That works out to 11 and three-quarter pages a day; 12 if I’m feeling ambitious. I can do that.
The clock starts now.
Join me on my journey into the...rabbit hole? No, that’s Alice in Wonderland. Over the hills? Under the stairs? I’ve heard there are stairs involved.
Guess I’ll find out.