by Lauren McEwen, Social Media Manager for "Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis"
It took me awhile to get into the first Harry Potter book. I’m not sure what it was about it that I didn’t like in the beginning, but I didn’t get past the first chapter until I was forced to sit in the beauty salon’s waiting area during my cousin’s hair appointment and had nothing to do besides reading this book my fourth grade teacher had recommended. (The fact that I fell in love with Harry Potter while waiting for my cousin to get a touch up on her perm is something I jokingly use to certify my black girl nerd cred. The smell of relaxer and the image of McGonagall sitting outside of the Dursleys’ house disguised as a cat will forever be linked in my mind.)
I was a bookworm because of my upbringing and as a means of survival. My mother has always gobbled up books hungrily, and she worked to instill that same love of reading in me. Once I got to elementary school, books were like life preservers. I was bullied between kindergarten and fourth grade, and before I figured out how to stand up for myself, I would frequently request a library pass to escape during downtimes in the classroom schedule. Refusing to let my bullies see me cry, I would hold back my tears until I got into the stacks and then, once I was done, I would browse around for a new book.
My fourth-grade teacher noticed how much I loved books, and would occasionally let me be the first to read new books she was adding to our classroom library. I will forever be grateful to her for handing me that copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I was intrigued by the boy wizard and his lightning bolt scar, loved hating his awful Muggle family, and was mystified by everything about the Wizarding World -- but it wasn’t until Harry and Ron befriended Hermione Granger that my heart became truly invested in the story.
Here was a girl who loved reading as much as I did, who had a head of big, rebellious hair like mine, and who always knew the answer in class. However, unlike me, she was never too worried about being teased or standing out in class to pretend like she didn’t want to raise her hand. Like Ron and Harry, I respected her smarts, but more so, I was in awe of the way that she never held back academically in order to fit in. She loved school and studied voraciously (something you would expect of more students who were studying at a freaking school of witchcraft and wizardry) without fear of being noticed.
For years, I worried that I talked too much in class, tried my hardest not to be the first one to hand in my test paper, and would never share my grades with anyone else. A few of my primary bullies seemed to resent the fact that my teachers singled me out because of my grades, and I refused to add fuel to that fire, even if it meant that I enjoyed school a little less as a result.
Hermione didn’t care about any of that. She cared about learning as much as she could about this wondrous new world around her. She took school seriously and liked to follow the rules -- but was always willing to break them if the mission at hand was important enough. Hermione’s code of ethics and love of learning spoke to me on a level that no other character had since Ramona Quimby. I loved Harry for his kindness, bravery and occasional sass, and (before his terrible behavior in the first half of The Goblet of Fire) appreciated Ron’s sense of humor and loyalty, but I always wanted the best for Hermione.
It wasn’t just that she was the main girl in the story, or that she called Ron and Harry out when they were being ridiculous or annoying. She was a girl who didn’t completely fit in but stayed true to herself. I loved when she stood up for herself when she was able to put together clues that went over everyone else’s heads, and most of all, whenever she showed up to save the day using one of the most underappreciated resources in the fantasy novels: research.
Hermione Jean Granger was the nerdy girl who helped save the world, and for that, I will forever love her.