A Birthday Chat About Intellectual Freedom with Harry Potter

Banned and Challenged Books, Intellectual Freedom Issues

By: Kate Lechtenberg

As I get ready to celebrate Harry Potter’s 31st birthday on July 31 (yes, the book was published twenty years ago, but his “real” birthday is July 31, and he was 11 when he was “born” into the literary landscape), I’ve decided to indulge myself in a little fanfic interview with the adult Chosen One about intellectual freedom. Enjoy!

KL: So Harry, your golden birthday is coming up! I know the world has been celebraScreen shot of ALA's Top 10 Banned & Challenged Books site with Harry Potter series in the #1 spotting the 20th anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s first book about you, but what I’d really like to know is what you think of all the controversy that has come from the stories. Did you know that the books are No. 1 on the ALA’s list of Banned or Challenged Books for 2000-2009?

HP: Yeah, it’s hard to believe! I have small kids of my own now, and they’re asking when they can read the books about me. Ginny and I are waiting a little longer because we don’t think they’re quite ready to see us in danger, but in a couple years, Ginny and I will probably read them to our kids.

KL: Oh, so you’re restricting your own kids’ access to books about you? Isn’t that a little hypocritical, coming from someone with a long history of sneaking into the Restricted Section at Hogwarts? Don’t you sound like someone who asks, “Is Harry Potter evil?” Muggle author Judy Blume wrote an interesting op-ed about that back in 1999!

HP: Fair point. But no, I don’t think it’s hypocritical, actually. We’re not taking the approach that the parents in Cedarville, Arkansas, took when they pushed to have all Harry Potter books removed from school libraries in 2003, accessible only with written parent permission. I’m not saying that no kids of their age should read the books, just that we’re not quite ready for our kids to read them. That’s a big difference.

KL: Yes, it certainly is. Thankfully the courts agreed in the Counts vs. Cedarville School District case. You sound like you’d fit right in at the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Do you need a job?

HP: No, I’m busy with my work as an Auror. But you could say I’m dabbling in my own intellectual freedom work these days. It was my old pal Hermione’s idea, really. She’s moved on from S.P.E.W. to P.U.K.E.: “Parents for the Unrestricted Keeping of (Literary) Editions,” and she’s insisting that Ron, Ginny, and I help out. I’m glad to, really. Our goal is to get rid of the Restricted Section at Hogwarts.

KL: Sounds like a great cause! Are you working with the Harry Potter Alliance? Their Accio Books campaign has helped spread access to books in the Muggle community.  Maybe they’d like to partner!Books in medieval library with chains attaching them to shelves or each other.

HP: Great idea! I bet Hermione would love that. She’s also reaching out to Samwell Tarly over at the Citadel to see if he’s interested in teaming up to challenge the Restricted Section in Oldtown. She thinks there’s a strong connection between restrictions at Hogwarts and the Citadel, and we need to work together against the long history of restricted access to books.

KL: Interesting. But back to Rowling’s books about you. How did you feel when you started hearing about people who wanted to ban — or even burn — the Harry Potter books?

HP: I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed. There’s always been misunderstanding between Muggles and wizards, and I think when people misunderstand others’ beliefs or cultures, they get scared. And they want to lash out and protect themselves and their children.

KL: Speaking of lashing out, what’s your take on J.K. Rowling’s spirited responses to those on social media who say they’ll burn Harry Potter books because they don’t like how she’s criticized U.S. President Donald Trump?

HP: I try to stay out of the spotlight, but I love that Rowling keeps standing up for what she believes in. She stood up for me, for Neville, for Luna, for Dobby and for everyone who needed a voice. And she’s still doing that.

KL: Thanks, Harry, for taking time to chat with us. And that job offer at the OIF still stands — for you, and for Hermione.


Kate LechtenbergKate Lechtenberg is a doctoral student in Language, Literacy, and Culture in the University of Iowa’s College of Education. After working in public schools for fourteen years as a high school English teacher and school librarian, her doctoral research now focuses on text selection, multicultural literature, educational standards, and equity initiatives. Kate teaches a young adult literature course in the College of Education and a school librarian course on print and digital collection management in the School of Library and Information Science. She is also a member of the AASL Standards Implementation Task Force. Find her on Twitter @katelechtenberg.

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