Dear J.K Rowling,
English wasn’t my first language. I had a hard time speaking it when I was younger. In school, I was that timid kid that kept to myself. I never raised my hand to participate. Any time the teacher searched the room to pick on a kid to share, I would look down at my lap and try not to get chosen. I had an accent, a very thick one too. In all shapes and forms, I was an outsider: lonely, quiet and with a reading deficiency.
And that is how I spent the first few years of my life, lonely and full of anger. I wanted to fit in, but I didn’t make an effort to better my English. I was afraid of making a fool of myself. I hated not being able to pronounce words the way my peers did. I hated English, because I struggled with it. So, I hated reading.
Looking back, I want to yell at myself because of all the time that I wasted living like a ghost as my eyes lazily drifted through pages of a book I wasn’t trying to comprehend. Back then, I never understood how reading could give me a release from my everyday life. I didn’t understand that reading could pick me up from my world, a place where my existence as a child of two poor Asian immigrants made me subject to contempt, and carry me away to a universe where people like me were embraced and celebrated, just like the boy who lived.
I never understood any of that, until I read your book.
It has been nine years since Miss. Lustburg walked over to my corner of our fourth grade classroom and handed me a well worn book with no illustrations in it. It has been nine years since she told me that I had to read twenty pages of this book by tomorrow, “or else.” It has been nine years since I first opened your book, and I still remember it like yesterday. All the pages were tattered, and the corners were beginning to yellow. You had signed the cover page twelve years ago in New York City, Miss Lustburg told me. She said that she waited for hours in the scorching heat just to see you. I can’t say if that’s true, but I know that if she really had waited for eighteen hours like she said she did, it was worth it.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone introduced me to two worlds: the world of magic, and the world of reading. I read the first page, and that was that. I was there, with Harry as he went through his first year at Hogwarts. I understood him, better than I understood myself. He lived in a family where he didn’t fit in. He was different by nature, and he felt it. I could feel his frustration, a feeling I had felt so many times before in my life, only this time I wasn’t alone.
And then Harry reached Hogwarts, a place of magic and adventure. He made two best friends. He studied subjects he knew he was meant to study. He belonged somewhere. He belonged to somebody. For me, a kid who wanted nothing but to feel like she belonged, it was as if this book was written just for me. After reading Harry’s story, reading became something I could enjoy. It was no longer a burden of long intricate vocabulary words I could never pronounce. It was a symphony of quests, spells and potions that I couldn’t wait to dive into. My innate fear of reading, began to evaporate, until it was all but gone.
You were my childhood.I know I didn’t read any of your books until I was nine, and most people have already lived through a majority of their childhoods by the age of nine, but I say that with all the sincerity a person could possibly muster. You should have seen me before I read your books. I was an angry chubby girl, frustrated at the world just because I was different from everyone else. I was angry that my parents couldn’t speak English. I was angry that I couldn’t speak English. I was angry about everything. But after I read your book, it was like all that anger had been lifted away, off of my shoulders. My anger combusted into a million particles and scattered millions of miles away from me to somewhere deep within the milky way.
My confidence in my literacy slowly began to build with each book I read from your series. I wasn’t that stubborn girl who was angry at the world anymore. I was able to just be a kid, a nine-year-old girl who loved Harry Potter books and wanted to ride a broomstick. So you see, even though I was nine when I began reading the Harry Potter series, my childhood didn’t begin until the day I opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
I want to be a writer, a novelist just like you. I know what you did for me: You helped me see myself in a different way. I had no refuge in this world until you gave me one. Hogwarts became my home. Harry became my friend, and magic became my ultimate confidence. Cliche as it may seem, I know from my own experience how one book, one story, and one author can change your life. I want to do that for somebody who was just like me, an outcast in need of a friend.
I finished all of your books within two weeks. I still have all of them stacked one after another right by the foot of my bed. The pages are all faded now from having been read so many times, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Even today, when I need a little reminder about the magic that still exists in the world, I crack open your very first book, the book that started it all, and I begin to read.