Some books are important. Not capital-I important, as in "important to the canon of English literature", but important like "I literally wouldn't be who I am today without this book." For a lot of us who began reading in the late 90's and beyond, those life-changing, important books were the Harry Potter series.
I remember exactly where I was the first time I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. That moment is ingrained in my memory as a pivotal event in my childhood. And while that may sound overly dramatic to some, Harry Potter has been a huge part of my life since I was nine years old. Those books have helped me make friends, gotten me through some hard times, and generally helped me become the person I am today. (True story: I once stopped going on dates with a guy who told me he "didn't understand" my Harry Potter obsession. Obviously he wasn't the man for me.)
I'm far from the only woman who has Harry to thank for helping them grow up. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which came out on June 26, 1997, here are 11 millennial women on how Harry changed their lives.
1. Hermione Was Like Her Own Reflection
"I started reading the series when I was around 10, and immediately I connected with Hermione. She was bright, she had frizzy hair, she was kinda bossy...it was like my own reflection. But everyone recognized her talents and saw how badass she was. Reading about a girl who was unapologetically herself was so, so important to me growing up."
— Allyson, 25
2. The Books Inspired Her To Work In Publishing
"The stories have that effect on mere objects and on us as readers because... I don't know, it's nice to see how far friendship, courage, effort, and love can go? I can't even explain how it became so iconic for so many people, but these are the books that made me want to write books and work in publishing. They encourage me to fight against bigotry and tyranny. I used to reread them every summer and though I haven't in a while, and though I'm not exactly involved in the fan community in any way, the series is still a big part of who I am. I guess it has shaped my outlook on life to some extent."
— Rachel, 25
3. J.K. Rowling Introduced Her To Feminism
"Basically, it introduced me to feminism when I found out J.K. was a woman and that they used her initials in fear that the target audience of young boys might not read a woman's book. Hermione was the first character I could truly relate to in anything at age nine, because she was a know-it-all that everyone made fun of, but she always saved them. I always felt weird and kind of made fun of for being "the smart girl" (one of my favorite Hermione moments is the potions riddle in Sorcerer's Stone and I was SO upset they didn't put it in the movie). I also just love that the underlying idea is that even through pain and heartache and loss and abuse and just a lot of terrible things Harry struggled to stay "good" but still managed to pull it off in a sloppy way and rally the troops to stand up to Voldy. (Even though his moods are quite annoying and I want to punch him through all of books five-seven.)"
— Kathryn, 27
4. The Characters Became A Part Of Her Family
"Harry Potter for me has always been so much more than a book series. It's ridiculous but all of the characters became a huge part of my family. I have a family full of women, a single mom and two older sisters, and we all read each book multiple times together. It was something we did as a family and that has always meant a lot to me. It was the first series that truly captivated me and actually made me feel like I was a part of it. I think that was partly true for my mom and my sisters too, and that's one of the best things about the series. There's something for everyone: from me, who started reading them when I was 10, all the way up to my mom, who started reading them when she was 42. And now, as an adult, I can truly say my favorite thing to do is shut boys down when I've had a couple too many beers in a spur of the moment HP trivia competition. To this day, no one has beaten me."
— Lisa, 26
5. The Books Inspired Her To Make Her Own Decisions
"I found the Harry Potter series when I was in 7th grade, through a friend, and there were only two books out at the time. I devoured them both within a week. I loved seeing smart, interesting characters similar in age to me, listening to their own instincts rather then what adults told them to do. I was an annoyingly good kid and Harry Potter was a world of rebellion for me. The books themselves were a huge religious controversy, but I used them as my escape from rule following. I would stay out so late on release nights to get my new copy, refuse to go to sleep to read the entire book that night, then walk to my friends house where we would discuss the book again and again in detail. It was pretty tame rebellion for a 13 year old, but for me, I felt like Harry, making my own decisions, even if an adult told me otherwise."
— Amanda, 30
6. The Book Taught Her Important Life Lessons
"Harry Potter taught me that we are not just what other people think we are, but what we value and what we cultivate in ourselves. We all have it in ourselves to be brave in the face of danger, to be loyal to our friends and to our ideals, to boldly pursue our ambitions, and to strive to learn and to better ourselves whenever possible."
— Diana, 26
7. The Books Taught Her Magic Isn't Reserved For Boys
"Harry Potter made me believe that magic and fantasy are not just reserved for boys. That the characteristics of being a hero are not just limited to physical strength but can also be intelligence and bravery of spirit. It helped me feel more comfortable that I'm a book worm, proud that I'm a 'nerd,' and happy that I have an entire world to escape into when life gets just a little too hard."
— Sam, 25
8. The Books Inspired Her To Travel
"Growing up with Harry Potter gave me a love for reading that I'm not sure I would have had otherwise. It has inspired me to travel and visit the places I fell in love with on the page. It's hard to determine how HP has impacted me because so much of what I do and what I love stems back to picking up that book when I was 10."
— Megan, 27
9. The Books Made It OK For Her To Be The "Hermione" Of A Friend Group
"Harry Potter made it OK to be the Hermione Granger of your friend group. At least, it made it okay for me. This girl was fearlessly and relentlessly hungry for knowledge, and I felt this kinship with her. I felt like it was cool to be that passionate about learning."
— Britt, 26
10. The Book Got Her Through Dark Times
"When I was thirteen, I lost my father to suicide and the only story I could relate to about losing a parent was Harry Potter. Through the series, I learned how to lean on my friends. I also realized how important it was to cherish the good memories we're lucky enough to experience, because happiness can be found in the darkest of times."
— Jenn, 27
11. J.K. Rowling Created A Magical Universe In Her Imagination
"The Harry Potter series began as a curiosity, a fantasy, and a daily trip to the mail box when I was eleven. The connection grew stronger throughout the series, for as I matured, the writing, story, and characters did as well. I delved into this fantastical world with a passion for learning new languages and culture (whether fiction or reality), for J.K. Rowling created a universe in my mind, and words are an inexhaustible form of magic."
— Lee, 26