As most of you Potterheads know, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ turned 20 yesterday and we’re celebrating our favourite book series all week long. After all, no one parties like us, Gryffindors, and we thought one day wasn’t long enough to appreciate the true beauty of J.K. Rowling’s fantastic series.
For the second day of HP week, we’re over the moon to share this super powerful open letter with you. It was penned by 17-year-old YA author, Charlotte Bowyer, and discusses how Hermione Granger gave Charlotte the permission to be herself.
Once you’re done, we also suggest checking out Charlotte’s upcoming, debut novel. It’s called ‘His Frozen Fingertips’ and she wrote it was she was just 15. How incredible is that?
Here’s Charlotte’s letter.
It’s a pity that you are not real, because I think we could have been good friends. Some experiences of young people transcend the barriers of generation, gender, and even fiction, and I think that your wit and verve were what inspired a generation of young activists who are looking to change the world. It certainly inspired me.
You were born in a world where house-elves were kept as slaves, non-magical people were considered as sub-human, and muggle-borns were thought to be second class citizens. Like me, you became increasingly aware of the injustices faced by many on the most fundamental levels. As I was called names like ‘weird’ and ‘lesbian’, you were called ‘know-it-all’ and ‘mudblood’. People are called names for both things that they can control and things that they cannot. You couldn’t control your blood status, as people cannot control their sexuality. However, you didn’t let your peers affect the way in which you acted, something entirely within your control. You took the name ‘know-it-all’ because you knew that being who you were was the most important thing, so I tried not to let being called ‘weird’ bother me. You taught me that it is better to be picked on for who you are than to be accepted for being someone you are not. However, a truth that the ‘Harry Potter’ books emphasise is that children are a product of the society that they are raised in. When a child is called slurs by their peers, it is a sign that that those opinions are their parents’, not their own. You saw the inequality in the wizarding world and refused to accept it. Something was not right.
Similarly, I was born into a world that did not allow gay people to join the army, a world that did not allow homosexual couples equal adoption rights, a country fourteen years away from accepting same-sex marriage. I was born in London in 1999. As a child, it seemed incomprehensible to me that people who loved members of their own sex couldn’t be the same as those who loved those of the opposite sex. People said that civil partnerships were the same as marriage, but it still meant that gay couples could not get properly married, a divide drawn between ‘partner’ and ‘spouse’. Growing up, even though I did not understand the news, I heard the words ‘equality’ and ‘rights’ and started to think about the world that I was living in. Many people in my parents’ and grandparents’ generations have homophobic ideologies that have been passed down through the centuries. When reading the ‘Harry Potter’ series, I took solace in the fact that my own generations’ problems with sexuality and gender diversity were just reflections of their parents’ opinions. It’s easier to make people change the way that they think if they realise that they weren’t thinking for themselves in the first place. Even so, it was clear that something was not right in my world, and if none of the adults were going to change it, then it was up to my generation to do it for ourselves.
Hermione, at the age of fifteen you began the Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare to promote the living and working conditions of house-elves but no one listened to you because you were still seen as a child, and what do children know about political issues? At the age of fifteen, I wrote my debut novel, ‘His Frozen Fingertips’ as a push to promote the representation of homosexual couples in Young Adult Fantasy literature. At that time, I had found very few representations of gay and bisexual protagonists in this genre, most books centred on heterosexual love triangles. I wanted to have a positive depiction of a bisexual character, a romance stemming from friendship, and to still have a plot that was more than a coming-out story. I wanted to defy the stereotypes that I had read about. No one listened to me because I was also still seen as a child.
You pushed through with your ideas and failed time and time again to make people care. You were told that ‘house-elves don’t want to be free’ and that in freeing them you were actually doing more harm than good. However, you did not give up and you eventually made your voice heard and achieved a revolution in house-elf rights as the head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. People fear change, and they will try to keep things as they always have been, but you didn’t care, and it turned out that you were able to make a change through your ‘books and cleverness’. The idea that another girl could be so smart, so brave, so innovative made me think that I could be these things too.
However, I could only hold onto this childhood inspiration for so long before I began to feel disheartened. I was sixteen years old and wondering how to get a book published in a world that saw me as too young to be a good writer but too old to get away with sounding like a child. It seems fitting that as I grew out of Hermione, I grew into your alter-ego, Emma Watson. Attending a single-sex school in Greater London, I see her speeches and quotations being shared and liked on social media almost every day. Feminism is part of our culture here, and Emma is inspiring more and more young people to get involved in politics. Her ideals of gender equality, LGBT+ representation, and body positivity are what our generation needs; she is an icon to young women from all backgrounds. It seems fitting with her political history that she was the first actress to ever receive a gender-neutral acting prize at the MTV movie and TV awards in 2017, a crucial first step in including actors who are outside of the gender binary.
In 2014, Emma Watson gave an iconic speech in front of the UN, the catalyst for the HeForShe movement. She invited her audience to ‘ask yourself, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’’ I put the bit between my teeth and six months later I finished the first draft of my novel.
Now my book, ‘His Frozen Fingertips’, is being published by Koehler on 26 June. We all need that spark to help us reach our full potential. It just so happens that, for me, that push came from a clever young witch in a series of children’s books. That is how Hermione changed everything for me.
So, thank you to these paragons of what it means to be a strong woman in today’s society. You, Hermione, were the person I needed as a child, and Emma Watson is the person who inspires me to strive towards being the best person I can be every day. Thank you for inspiring me to be the change I want to see in the world.
To find out more about Charlotte Bowyer, you can visit her website. ‘His Frozen Fingertips’ is published by Koehler and available to buy online from 26th June. Enjoy.