Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book.
“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released in the UK on June 26, 1997. A year later it debuted in the US as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
To put the anniversary in perspective, we chatted with Nive Ramesh and Priyanka Dharampuriya, two Tufts University students who taught a Harry Potter-inspired class as undergrads.
After meeting in middle school and bonding over the series, the friends enrolled at Tufts, where they learned about peer-teaching opportunities. They got approval to teach a class they called “Growing Up at Hogwarts: Young Adult Literature and Adolescent Identity.” The course focused on Potter, but also dissected other young adult titles such as “The Hunger Games.” The duo taught the one-credit course during the spring of 2015 and 2016, only stopping because they moved on to pursue graduate degrees.
Ramesh explained that without Rowling’s tale, she might never have been turned on to books. “I was an awful child and my mother couldn’t get me to read,” she said, remembering that her family read her the first two installments until she could handle the third on her own.
She said the stories continue to be relevant because they are about inclusivity and embracing diversity. “The point is that you need everyone as a unit,” she said, calling that lesson “monumental.”
Dharampuriya said the books hold up because of their timelessness; everyone feels the same age as Harry, and can learn lessons about themselves as he becomes an adult.
“I walked away from the books with the knowledge that people who do great things, they go through the same doubts and the same struggles. Harry — in the book — he messes up a lot. A lot of it is him learning to be a leader and learning how to work with others and how to get out of his own head.”
Dharampuriya said she will also always be grateful that she was able to grow up with a strong female character like Hermione Granger.
“She is by far the most useful character,” she said.
For the record, the character Harry Potter — whose birthday is said to be July 31, 1980 — would be 36 (37 next month). That means that this is also the year the characters reappear as their older selves in the final book’s epilogue.