Tag Archives: harry potter

5 Valentine Movies to Watch with Your Best Friend

friendshipMy best friend and I have known each other since the 6th grade. We’ve endured middle school treachery, dramatically intense boarding school, family drama, broken hearts and quarter life crises together – all the things that make a solid friendship. We haven’t always agreed about each other’s decisions, but when it comes down to it we know that the other will always pick up the phone when we need it (even if you are way too drunk and it’s 3am and no one can understand what you’re saying because you’re crying too much).

Her dream to run her own non-profit and mine to write the next indie darling dramedy require us to live on separate coasts though. Maintaining a BFF-ship from that distance can take a lot of work but we’ve come up with a few tricks to make it work. One thing we do is go to the movies together. We pick something we both want to see and find similar movie times (her three hours ahead of mine). We text on the way there and then call to sum up what we saw when it’s finished. It’s almost the same as her sitting right there next to me.

I’ve seen so many movie lists this week – “The Most Romantic Movies of All Time” or “The Best Movies to Watch with Your Valentine.” Since I am on the never ending quest to get a boyfriend, these lists are really just depressing. Since we are celebrating all the different types of love this week on Intent (and today is friend love!) I thought I’d make my own list – The Best Movies to Watch with Your Best Friend. Here are my faves:

I Love You Man – 2009

Say what you will about Judd Apatow, but this is one of my favorites. I don’t think BFF-ship should be limited to girls and this is an excellent movie about dude-bonding. I enjoy movies where multiple characters have to go through “growth” arcs. Paul Rudd stars as the shy, socially awkward Groom-to-be on the hunt for his best man while Jason Segel plays the outgoing unrefined best friend that Paul never knew he needed. They both like Rush and they both have a lot to learn from each other. It goes to show that there is nothing more important than life than finding your best bro, and realizing that Chocolat is delightful.

The Fox and the Hound – 1988

If I’m going to be listing my favorite buddy movies, I should probably include my best friend’s favorite as well. First of all, animated movies are nostalgic and amazing and thus always a great choice for BFF bonding. Secondly, this is one of the few Disney films where the main tragedy isn’t a parent dying. However, there is still definitely tragedy and any person who does not sob by the end of this movie is heartless. You and your best friend may be completely opposite people, but that could mean you’re the perfect match. Even if it causes you to go down separate paths, the love of a true friendship is always going to anchor you. It’s always going to come first. So grab a box of tissues and snuggle up, because if Fox and Hound can do it, so can you.

Thelma & Louise – 1991

Is it possible to have a BFF movie list without mentioning Thelma & Louise? These two literally die for each other (Sorry, spoiler! But you should already know about this…) in one of the most iconic movie endings of all time. This is a great movie about friendship because these two stick together no matter how deep the trouble they get into becomes. It’s the ultimate tale of loyalty. Also, a very young Brad Pitt shows up shirtless with a blow dryer down his pants. Really, you can’t lose.

Beaches – 1988

While we’re on the topic of iconic movies, how could we forget the film that gave us The Wind Beneath My Wings? This is another movie that drives home that your best friend is your anchor and no matter how far you drift apart you can always be brought back together. This is another one that requires a box of tissues, but it’s worth it if only to belt out the best friend anthem with one of your favorite people on the planet.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 – 2011

I am currently wearing a shirt that says “Books turn Muggles into Wizards” and I have made no secret of my love for Harry Potter on this site. And having known my best friend since I was 11 we traversed through this series and the movies together. There were midnight screenings and intense conversations as we made it through each of the books. Harry Potter was a monumental part of our growing up. The story is about a lot of things – overcoming adversity, the importance of family, belief in magic – but at the core of all of that are three best friends. The three of them, as completely different as they are, have to band together to defeat the Dark Lord and save the world that they hold so dear. Their seventh year puts them in constant danger, and despite Ron’s brief departure, they stick together. If you’re going to celebrate your friendship, do it with a movie that shows the truly remarkable things you can do when you believe in each other and work together.

What are your favorite BFF movies? Or favorite traditions with your best friends? Share in the comments below!

photo by: birterohden

My Favorite Families: A Film Review

I always hear that TV and film is entirely too violent. There’s a lot of sex. And that’s not even talking about the reality shows. But then there are some really excellent stories we’re left with. I’m talking about families who are just trying to make it work, whether that be in Neverland or the middle of America. Here are 5 of my favorite film families:

1. The Charmings

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From the ABC show “Once Upon A Time”, The Charmings extended family includes Snow White, Belle, an evil queen AND a gold spinning imp? That’s a family I want in on. Thanks to a fairytale curse, most of the family members are about the same age (and very good-looking, but we think that is non-curse related), but the sweetest aspect of this family is how much trust they put in every member to be the best version of themselves- even allowing grandson Henry to lead them on life-saving adventures through foreign make-believe worlds.

2. The Weasleys

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We love the Weasleys for a lot of reasons. 1) They’re magical and a magical family of 9 can only result in craziness, which I enjoy. 2) While much of the set of Harry Potter is fantastical, the Weasley house, while certainly having elements you wouldn’t see in a Muggle home, still really feels like a large family lives there. Mix-matched chairs. Laundry hanging over stair railings. Dishes piled up in the sink. 3) With 7 men, the 2 ladies of the family (mom Molly and daughter Ginny) are both strong yet still all woman. A family that can just be is a family that I want to be in.

3. The Tenenbaums

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A family of geniuses who are learning that your brilliant brain doesn’t necessarily make your heart problems go away? That would be the story of the Tenenbaums. As independently awesome as they are (financial whiz, tennis star), this family ultimately realizes that they’re better together, even as adults. They learn that having a little fun shouldn’t be against the law and ultimately they learn that a little forgiveness (of others, of yourself) can go a long way.

4. The Hecks

NEIL FLYNN, PATRICIA HEATON, CHARLIE MCDERMOTT, EDEN SHER, ATTICUS SHAFFERcopyright Michael Ansell/ABC | source

The Hecks live in The Middle of America and remind people watching television that not everyone is a real housewife of a county where even toddlers drive Bentleys. Mom Frankie is regularly forgetting to pack lunches, to pick up kids, to set her alarm. Just like a real human. Dad Mike has trouble connecting with just about everyone on any sort of emotional level and each Heck child is definitely marching to the beat of their own drum. Unapologetically. Mostly, because they don’t know that they’re doing anything weird, not out of a sense of pride. Their house looks like my house. Their family bickering sounds like my family bickering. Also, I wouldn’t mind some of Sue’s outfits.

5. The Goonies

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The Goonies are proof that you can pick your family. While Mikey and Brandon Walsh also have parents they love, their fellow Goondock residents are the family we remember. Sometimes it’s an Asian kid who flies through your window on a self-installed zip line. Sometimes it’s a motor-mouth brat who actually has a heart of gold. Sometimes your family is just who you choose- good, bad, ugly. They were bound together by adventure and the hope that they could make their lives their own. And I’d choose that family too.

Is More Money Really Going to Make You Happy?

iStock_000006667499XSmall“Everything else in my life is great. If only I was making an extra $1200 a month, I’d be the happiest woman on the planet.”

I said that. I really did. Fortunately I said it to my really great friend and co-author Darren Weissman in one of our Skype calls. He let the words sit and steam a bit (fresh manure does that when it hits cooler air temperatures). Then, without a hint of incredulity, he asked, “You really believe that?”

In that moment I did. It was true! If I had just that little bit of extra cash on a steady basis I wouldn’t have to keep dipping into my diminishing savings to pay all the bills. I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. I’d feel secure. I’d be secure!

Yeah, right.

In the face of his quiet question, the bubble of delusion popped. My vision of a safe, predictable future based on a little extra cash evaporated. I laughed as I admitted I’d let the lie of “security comes from externally-based tangible assets” seduce me yet one more time.

But Darren didn’t let me off the hook. Instead he guided me through his LifeLine Technique—a process designed to reveal and transform subconscious emotions, memories and programs and just as swiftly rewire the brain into new, more intentional patterns.

In that hour I processed buried memories of the harrowing life and death drama that had been my birth experience: mother in a coma, premature caesarian delivery, baby me shoved in an incubator… a full-on drama with residual fears and trauma that hadn’t been dealt with in 62 years.

We finished the LifeLine and Darren left me with an intention I’d set during the process: I am absolute connection feeling beautiful. But more than anything else I was left with a stunning reminder that personal transformation and developing inner security is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.

Peace comes and goes. One minute I’m happy and gloriously confident for no reason at all. I know that life works—that whatever I’m doing is fine and that I’m exactly where I need to be.  The next moment an unexpected expense, a casual comment or a memory trigger a typhoon of emotions and fears that in turn stir up old beliefs and a desire to race back to old solutions (like a steady paycheck!).

Now I’m up, now I’m down. It’s like I’m riding an old, wooden, splintery seesaw in my underpants. OUCH! Worse, my whipsawing emotions stir up judgment. I shouldn’t feel this way.

I should radiate happiness at all times. I should feel assured that following my heart means success. I shouldn’t fret over bills or snap at a friend telling me how poor the room service was at the last fabulous resort she visited in Spain. An inner spiritual glow of peace should follow me everywhere, gracing all others in my path.

Right. And I should sign my charge slips Mother Theresa.

Where did I pick up all this “sweetness and light” crap? Apparently there’s a tell-all biography revealing that even our iconic Sister Mary Mother to the World wasn’t nice all the time—or even very happy. And JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame whose personal net worth is now somewhere in the vicinity of $1 billion confesses to having fear and feelings of financial insecurity.

“I still worry about money,” she said in a recent interview. “Funnily enough it bears no relation to what is in your bank account, it is purely emotional.”

No kidding.

So, if taking a vow of chastity and poverty and serving the world’s poor for a lifetime isn’t enough to generate constant joy, and being a fabulously wealthy, beautiful, more-famous-than-God author isn’t enough to generate constant security and happiness… what the hell am I beating myself up for?

Maybe I’m just human. Maybe, like Mother Theresa and Rowling, I have emotions and hidden programs and subconscious fears and issues driving me. How not? I was forced to draw my very first breath of air on this planet by being slapped on my very wet, very naked ass. We all were. And it just got tougher from there—and a lot more beautiful.

Accept it all. Let it all in. Breathe. Embrace the pain and joy. See it. Feel it. Hear it. Embrace the fear and the wonder. Don’t try to change any of it or glue on a smiley face. It’s all okay. And if it’s all okay, I’m okay.

I tell myself this a thousand times a day. And it’s okay that I need to.

Fan Girl Lament: Will There Ever Be a Harry Potter 8?

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 5.25.25 PMIt was a normal day on my Facebook feed yesterday until I saw that an old acquaintance from high school had posted this article quoting JK Rowling saying that she was 75% done with an eighth Harry Potter novel.

Begin instant fan-girl freak out immediately.

I scrolled right past the April 1, 2013 date at the top of the story. Began clapping my hands eagerly at “more details to come during Rowling’s press conference in Scotland” and was already tweeting “PLEASE LET IT BE MARAUDERS! #HP8 #LETITBETRUE” before I got to Daniel Radcliffe’s alleged statement that he was itching to get back into the Potter world. Honestly, that’s when I should have known something was up. I have basically been cyber stalking Dan since I saw Kill Your Darlings. I’ve seen every interview he’s done over the past three months and if one thing has been clear it has been his desire to establish himself as an actor outside of the Potter universe. (However, there is so much to be explored in the wizarding world outside of Harry. Like I said, MARAUDERS. NOW. PLEASE.)

I was in the middle of leaving my mother a voicemail that I would need my Hufflepuff (and proud) scarf express mailed to Los Angeles – not to worry that it was 91 degrees last week, fandom trumps comfort in every instance – when my friend and trusted Potter expert Terri Schwartz tweeted this helpful (and soul crushing) article from MuggleNet (the internet’s most trusted HP source). Their points were so accurate. I finally noticed that date. Daniel would never be interested in reclaiming his Potter title. Why would such an obscure website have such a hot story? More importantly, why would they be so cruel to play with our emotions that way? It’s November, not April! How dare they!

Begrudgingly, I closed my make-your-own-wand tutorial and began to sulk.

The Intent theme this week has been fantasies, and to be invited back to the Wizarding World for one more adventure probably tops the list of mine. Every birthday I still naively wish for my letter for Hogwarts to arrive. You know, maybe they have a late bloomer night-college for adults campus or something. I started reading these books when I was 10 years old – I am now 24. What is it about Hogwarts that still has me (and millions of others) still captivated  a decade and a half later?

It’s more than the fact that magic and flying broomsticks are awesome. Harry Potter taught kids like me, and people the world over, that under dogs can surmount any obstacle as long as they have integrity, faith in their friends, and the belief in themselves and their own intelligence over shortcuts and darkness. Harry Potter taught us to reach for the light. For seven books and eight movies we were able to travel to a magical world where we could all be heroes. Two professors from the University of Vermont published a book earlier this year on the political impact the Harry Potter series has had on millennials. In a national survey they found that young people that grew up reading the books tend be more open to diversity; politically tolerant; less authoritarian; less likely to support the use of deadly force or torture; and more politically active. Harry Potter has fulfilled its role as the ultimate fantasy for the current generation – it provides us with an encompassing escape and returns us to the real world with a desire and motivation to be better than we already are.

“The stories we love the most will always live within us,” JK Rowling said at the premiere of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, “so whether you return by page or by screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” You may not be writing another book right now, Jo, but we’ll eagerly accept the invitation back any time.

VOD: The Ohio State Marching Band Will Blow Your Mind

People in band have never had the reputation of being the coolest kids in the world – but the Ohio State University marching band may have changed all that. During half-time at the Michigan vs Ohio game they performed a montage of “blockbuster hits.” Watching this video you are going to find it hard to believe these are real people doing this instead of digital pixels. They go from Superman to Harry Potter to Jurassic Park and each transition is more awing than the previous. Trust us, it’s worth a few minutes to see this.

What do you think of the video? If you have a suggestion for our Video of the Day column?

“Kill Your Darlings” and Confront Your Demons

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SPOILER ALERT for those not familiar with the history of the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac & William Burroughs) and the story of the Lucien Carr murder of David Kammerer. 

To be honest, the main reason I went to see Kill Your Darlings this weekend is because Arclight Hollywood was hosting a Q&A with actor Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) afterwards, and being in the same room with him would officially put me one degree away from the Hollywood love of my life – Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man). 

I had seen a few of Dane’s previous movies and was always impressed by his powerful and dark performances. However, at the end of Darlings I was spellbound. The movie follows poet Allen Ginsberg (played by Daniel Radcliffe) during his freshman year at Columbia University – where he meets the rest of the beat poet generation, including the charismatic and troubled Lucien Carr (Dehaan). Together they set forth to ignite a literary revolution, but instead find themselves tangled in the web of Lucien’s identity crisis which leads to the murder of their friend and Lucien’s ex lover David Kammerer.

I had Googled the story before I went and I knew the details were horrible. The real Lucien Carr only spent two years in prison for the murder, though he stabbed David and weighed the body down with rocks before drowning him in the Hudson River. He was able to get less time because he convinced the court it was an honor killing. In 1944, if a heterosexual man kills a homosexual man making “unwanted advances” you serve a lesser time in prison. It’s disgusting and disturbing and in print there’s no sympathy for Lucien to be found.

As disturbed as I was by the circumstances of the story, Dehaan gave a performance that was haunting. I’ve been talking about the movie non-stop since I saw it. Starting with the title sequence (which you can see below) and the first time he says Allen, with his voice breaking like that, it chills to the bone. It’s only two syllables but you can hear the absolute terror in them. His life is over if Allen hands in that statement. Lucien will be forced not only to spend the rest of his life in prison but he’ll have to come to terms with who he really is – and the idea of that is so paralyzingly petrifying that he killed a man to stop it from happening.

I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be a closeted gay man, especially in the 1940s. But we are exploring fear this week on Intent, and this movie has made me think a lot about the power we give fear. Lucien is the most extreme example of what can happen if we let ourselves be controlled by fear. Even before the murder Lucien has to banish the things and people he loves most from his life because he’s scared of being honest with himself and the world (granted, coming out of the closet in 1944 was virtually impossible). But that is the great thing about movies, especially ones like this. They enable us to use the cinematic drama to examine ourselves – our flaws, our weaknesses and the state of our own human condition. Are we as deeply troubled as Lucien Carr? I very sincerely hope not, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from him and this story.

I’ve been asking myself since Saturday night what fear do I let control me? I’m afraid that as badly as I want to be a screenwriter that I don’t have the talent or the gumption to make it. I am afraid of being alone forever. I am afraid of being rejected or finding out the people I love and respect most honestly don’t like me. And these fears have a daily impact on my life. This weekend I spent more time playing Candy Crush Saga than I did working on my screenplay treatment outline. I absolutely refuse to fill out an OkCupid profile even though I’ve read a quarter of my generation now meets their significant other online. I sulked home alone eating chocolate chip cookies instead of going to a good friend’s improv show because the group didn’t invite me to join.

By themselves these seem like small meaningless choices. Confronting these fears that I harbor is the first step in making braver choices in my life. It’s the key to embracing the good things I have around me and going after the things I desire, after my passions and after dreams.

Take a moment today and think about the choices you’ve made in the past week. Which ones have you made out of fear and which ones have you made in spite of it? Pick one of the former and find a way to change it. I’ve made a pact with myself that there will be no Candy Crush Saga until I’ve outlined at least one scene or mapped a character for my movie. I’ve made a pact with myself to no longer be held back by fear.

Kill Your Darlings was released October 16.

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Photo from Tumblr. 

And the Magic of Harry Potter Continues! J.K. Rowling’s Next Film Project

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If you were among the millions in the world devastated by the end of the Harry Potter book and film series, then take heart. The wizarding world of Harry Potter will be back onscreen in no time! (Just without Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the gang.)

We know, it sounds crazy. How can you have a “Harry Potter” movie without Harry Potter and co.? If you’re a devoted fan, then maybe you already know…

J.K. Rowling is teaming up with Warner Bros. to develop a new film series based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of the textbooks Harry and his classmates read at Hogwarts. By the title you can probably guess what the book is about. The film series will bring the book’s supposed author, Newt Scamander, to the forefront, cataloging his adventures in the same magical world Harry and the gang call home.

As Rowling said in a press release:

It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt…

As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.

Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.

The Harry Potter phenomenon is so pervasive, so ingrained at this point, we wonder if the world has even conceptualized yet how much the series has changed our culture. Sure, you could say, “It’s just a kid’s book! It’s a fad!” But then you remember that this “fad” has sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, available in 73 languages, and it persists in popularity even 15 years after the first book was published. Sometimes it’s hard to know the impact a book will have in the years to come.

Whether you’re a fan of the books or not, who doesn’t love a good fantasy movie? We look forward to whatever magic Rowling and Warner Bros. come up with together – witches, monsters, broomsticks and all!

What do you think about the significance of Harry Potter in modern culture? Let us know in the comments section below!

Wicca 101: Witches, Magic, and the Art of Intention

What is it with witches and wizards? We love them, hate them, persecute them for hundreds of years, and glorify them in wondrous stories of magical worlds and flying broomsticks. In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra explores the wizarding world of Wicca in the hopes of dispelling some common misconceptions about this rapidly growing religion.

We’ve come a long way since the witch trials of Renaissance Europe and the American colonies,  but prejudice lingers. In some parts of the world witch hunts are a daily reality, with individuals harassed, beaten, shunned and occasionally even murdered for bearing “witch-like” traits. Harry Potter is a fine and beloved fantasy around the world, but how would we treat him if he were real? Witchcraft is acceptable in the realm of fantasy, but could we make room for it in the muggle world, too?

The world has had centuries to work on religious tolerance for pagans and Wiccans, but we continue to fail in making an accommodation to their traditions. Ancient European paganism, Hebrew mysticism and Greek mythology are just some of the forebears cited by Wiccan texts and oral histories. The inclusion of a feminine divine also leads historians and archaeologists to draw a line of ancestry from ancient fertility cults to contemporary Neo-pagan traditions, of which Wicca is probably the most organized and certainly most widely recognized.

Historians in the 19th century began writing about the connection between earlier traditions and groups purportedly practicing underground magic at the time. In 1951 the United Kingdom joined the rest of Europe in repealing remaining anti-witchcraft laws, just in time for the publishing of civil servant and amateur anthropologist Gerald Gardner’s book Witchcraft Today. In his book, Gardner declared himself a practitioner of a heretofore unknown religion “Wicca,” which he dated back to the Stone Age. The religion swiftly gained momentum, with many neo-pagan traditions branching off from it in the decades that followed.

John William Waterhouse: Magic CircleThere is no single sacred text, governing body, or outlined doctrine in Wicca today, and beliefs and practices vary widely from practitioner to practitioner. But certain themes crop up repeatedly in rhetoric and at modern gatherings. Connection to the earth and nature’s rhythms is key, as is reverence for both the divine masculine and feminine, sometimes as the Goddess and God but often as a merging of creative forces in the Universe. Wiccans and pagans also tend to revere the directions (East, South, West, North and Center) and elements (Wind, Fire, Water, Earth, and Spirit), perform rituals that coincide with seasonal cycles (equinoxes, solstices, and moon phases), and believe in reincarnation.

Even more fundamental is adherence to a fundamental ethic called the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Essentially, the community trusts its members to make their own decisions, hold their own beliefs, and act in such a way as to harm none – self and environment included. Similar to The Golden Rule known to just about every religious tradition throughout history, The Threefold Law is prominent in Wicca, as well, and teaches that energy released into the world will return to the individual three times as powerful, for better or for worse.

Wiccan magic, often referred to as “the Craft,” is largely grounded in intention and ritual. The word “magic” stems from both the Old Persian term for “sorcerer” but also the ancient Greek word for “art.” Consider, then, that the artist, actor, or carpenter utilizes magic as much as the magician does in transforming natural resources into entirely new expressions of creativity. Just so, Wiccans harness energetic influences and elements in order to manifest certain intentions. Easier said than done, right? But at the end of the day isn’t it a lot like praying or repeating positive affirmations? More mainstream, but equally magical in essence.

What are your thoughts on Wicca and magic? Let us know in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well to receive updates about all our latest episodes, and have a magical day!

photo by: deflam

Multicultural Kidlit: A Case for Not Explaining Yourself

From Stories are Good Medicine:


 

To ‘splain yourself, or not to ‘splain yourself.

Ah, that is the question.

For authors of children’s literature commonly called "multicultural", the issue is often one that’s front and center.

From agents who say "Oh, I’d like to learn more about that custom/ritual/holiday."

From editors who urge, "Draw out the protagonist’s cultural conflict."

From fellow writers who say, "But this passage is so esoteric, isn’t it?."

And of course, the job of a writer is to draw a reader into a world – whatever that world’s culture, history, time and space – certainly not shut readers out or make readers so preoccupied with what they do not know that they cannot go along for the plot’s ride along with the protagonist.

Yet, some of the best ‘multicultural’ books I’ve ever read don’t always explain. In fact, the authors sometimes don’t explain on purpose.

Take Salman Rushdie, whose novels first taught me that Indian expressions, inside jokes and cultural nuances could be sprinkled liberally through a novel without remorse. Rushdie even plays fast and loose with cross-cultural grammar. Indian suffixes like an honorific -ji are added wily-nily:  "Auntie-ji" "Uncle-ji"; alternately, Indian words are given Anglicized endings like "chutney-fication." Indian patterns of speech, like repeating and rhyming a word pop up all over the place: "writing-shiting." Film references and ‘insider’ jokes abound – some of which I, as an Indian American, catch and some of which I don’t. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. His worlds are so rich and nuanced that I happily enter them, giving in to the atmosphere, the world-building, the linguistic high-jinks, and of course, the plot’s ride.

But what about children’s novels? Aren’t they held to a different standard? Are the same practices that seem erudite and the signifiers of a global sophisticate just downright unfair in a novel for young people? Don’t we need to explain more lest middle grade and teen readers get confused, angry, turned off, or worst still, bored?

I’m not so sure. Take my son, an avid reader 8yo, who, a couple of weeks ago, said to me:

Son: "Mom, that was a huge kwi-wee at the airport yesterday, wasn’t it?"

Me: "A what?"

Son: "A long kwi-we. You know, Q-U-E-U-E."

Of course, I had to explain that the word, no matter how it looked, was actually pronounced "cue." To which, he said "well, that’s silly."

But beyond that moment of cuteness, my actual point here is that, as a huge Harry Potter fan, my son obviously read the word somewhere in one of J.K. Rowling’s books. And although he’s never heard it in his day to day life, he was able to pick up the meaning from the context. And more importantly, it didn’t bother him. Not. One. Whit.

And what I’ve learned, at least about my son, is this: If the story is good, he will go. Even if he doesn’t pick up on every sign post along the way. (I blogged a while ago about him missing, totally, the few pages about menstruation in Lisa Yee’s delightful Millicent Min Girl Genius. Did I stress about those pages, unnecessarily? Yes. Did it bother my son not to get what Yee was talking about there? Nope, not at all. It remains one of his all time favorite books.)

I just finished reading Nnedi Okorafor’s delightful, imaginative and magical Akata Witch, which is set  firmly in the soil, context and often, language of Nigeria. Yet, Okorafor skillfully makes plenty of room for the non-Nigerian reader by creating characters who are themselves "in between." – one American boy and one Nigerian girl who was raised in the U.S. before returning to Nigeria again. (she’s in between in other fascinating ways too, but I’ll let you read the book to find out) 

There were pieces of culture and context that I loved learning about – but there were plenty of things I’m sure I didn’t catch. Only, I was so occupied following the characters and exciting plot, that I honestly didn’t notice. Instead, I felt pulled in – as if I was wading through the river of Okorafor’s imagination – and it didn’t really matter if I didn’t know the river’s name, I got the other side (and felt the rush and wet and pull of the water) just the same.

Explaining too little or too much is of course a fine balancing act. I’m sure each reader’s tolerance for "not getting something" is a little different. And I’m definitely sure that our cultural tolerance for being "outsiders" to another’s cultural nuances has changed drastically over time. But ultimately, good novels aren’t anthropological treatises on far away cultures – they are doorways into characters’ lives and stories. And like Alice down her rabbit hole, readers don’t always have to understand every spectacular sight in a new place to appreciate the journey.

What are your favorite novels that introduced you to new worlds? Did they ‘splain, or just let you dive into, as Rushdie would say, their stream of stories?

What’s Beyond the Wand?….After the Epic of Harry Potter

I am not sure where my son Josh was in Harry Potter’s journey when it ended for him. I do know he was enraptured with the tale. Josh was struck by a car and killed at age 15 in 2002. Yet he left a profound legacy about living life fully and about facing death, in many ways parallel to Harry’s legacy. 

As the Harry Potter epic comes to a close with the soon to be released last film, for those of us who were enraptured by Harry and Co…..and even for those who were not engaged in the magic….you have to wonder, what’s BEYOND THE WAND? Fortunately the tale of Harry Potter will continue its magic for mere muggles for a long time to come. J. K. Rowling bestowed a gift upon the world, a treasure of insights about the journey we call life.

So, what is BEYOND THE WAND? It ALL comes down to one word. In this light, I thought it timely to share an excerpt of Beyond the Wand, a chapter from my forthcoming book, Rising in the Mourning: Embracing Life from Loss

 

BEYOND THE WAND

 

…An Excerpt…

 

Author’s Note: July 31, 2007. I knew I had to wait until I completed Harry, until I reached the end of the epic. And so I did. Josh never had the opportunity to complete Harry’s journey. I can’t recall where he left off when he left us. Yet, I carried him with me to the end. And now I carry you with me as I continue my tale….

As I completed the epic of seven books, tears streamed down the skin of my checks. I felt loss alongside peace. Even happy endings are often coupled with grief.

While Josh never got to read the last of the Harry Potter epic, in some ways he lived it. Death was always at his door were he to have eaten a peanut, a nut or a shrimp. He needed a wand to curtail the opening of death’s door, an earthly wand in the form of an Epi Pen……its magic keeping him in our midst seven times.

Like Harry, Josh knew that death was a looming possibility. Without protection it could become a reality. Did his near encounters with death bring him more fully into life? Looking back, I know they did.  Harry had the opportunity to contemplate and even savor life when its end seemed imminent. Josh’s final encroachment upon death gave no warnings the last time it came. There was no wand to save him from the car that struck him….so improbable an occurrence on a suburban sidewalk on a Sunday afternoon.

So, what would Josh have thought had he been here for more of Harry’s journey? What would he wish to convey to us now? Would he reflect on a story within Harry’s story about how humans are frightened of death? Is it leaving and loosing those we love that frightens us most? Courageously, Josh fought fear in the face, triumphantly obliterating all but vigilance in his quest to become the master of his world.  Like Harry, “his will to live had always been so much stronger than his fear of death.”

Must we experience near death through accident or illness to heighten our appreciation of our own beating hearts, as well as those of our fellows? Faced with dying, Harry contemplates: “Why had he never appreciated what a miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart? It would all be gone….or at least, he would be gone from it.” Aside from our own brush with death, must we walk on the edge to embrace life with gentility, compassion and that most sought after emotion, love? Is there not a way to enrich our lives without having to meet, or even to fear, the shadow of death?

“Death was impatient.” J. K. wrote. Death can wait. Life is what is before you now. Are you breathing? Is your heart beating? Why let your mind hold you hostage from life and put you in the room of death’s contemplation? Harry’s deceased mentor, Dumbledore, tells him that “there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.” Just read the newspaper or watch the news to get confirmation…..and find all the more reason to concentrate on the good things life has to offer.

In the end, Dumbledore goes on to tell Harry something Josh has taught me, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.” And so it is with heartfelt gratitude that I thank J. K. Rowling and Harry for connecting me to a magical world Josh loved and for confirmation of what is most important in any world…..love.  Embracing love is the challenge that awaits each of us beyond the wand. 

*All quotes are from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling.

© 2011. Nancy H. Rothstein

 


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