An excerpt from Mimi Mondal’s essay on The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac Volume 2.
Like many people of my generation, I grew up on Harry Potter. As an introverted, class-topping little girl, I identified hardcore with Hermione Granger. I had sorted myself into a House (Slytherin, unfortunately) long before there was Pottermore. I had all the spells at the tip of my tongue, just as I knew all the minor characters, subplots and plot holes by heart. My best friend was a Harry Potter fanfic writer for years, and although I never wrote any fanfic myself, the online Harry Potter communities were my first experience of fandom, which was my first experience of LiveJournal, which in turn was my first experience of the international SFF community.
I wrote J.K. Rowling a snail-mail letter, addressed to the Bloomsbury office in London, when she killed off Sirius Black in The Order of the Phoenix, telling her how that was uncool and, frankly, here’s a list of much better things she could’ve done with the story instead. I was one of the kids who felt entitled to tell Rowling off on such matters, because I knew about Harry Potter as much as anyone possibly could; because I had speculated about possible futures of the story more than she herself may have (ha!); because Harry Potter was a core part of my childhood… and how could she just have casually violated that? (Or no, “felt entitled” would be the wrong description, because no one ever feels entitled to do anything. The best part about the entitled is that they feel offended by other people doing their thing, which they refuse to believe can rightfully be those other people’s thing to do.)
I have felt as possessive about the Harry Potter canon as anyone I’ve ever met, so once again, when people are talking about Noma Dumezweni being cast as the adult Hermione, and the possibility that Hermione may not have been white in the first place, I can feel my (non-existent) entitlement begin to tickle. I have always been Hermione among my friends; it’s the rare character in which I saw myself reflected, validated in fiction; the character whose triumphs and losses were my own—surely no one else can have the last word on whether a black Hermione “feels right”? If it doesn’t feel right to me, there’s no way that can be retconned into the canon. That’s violating my childhood. I won’t have it.
Except that I was never a white girl myself. Through all my childhood years of hardcore Pottermania, I was a brown girl growing up in Calcutta, India.
MIMI MONDAL lives between Calcutta, India and Philadelphia, PA. She has been an editor at Penguin India; a Commonwealth Scholar in Scotland; and an Octavia Butler Scholar at the Clarion West Writing Workshop. Her first collection, Other People, is scheduled to be published in India from Juggernaut Books
Characters Are Not A Coloring Book Or, Why the Black Hermione is a Poor Apology for the Ingrained Racism of Harry Potter is an essay available with The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac and you can get a copy and read the rest now.
ABOUT THE BOOK SMUGGLERS’ QUARTERLY ALMANAC
Gorgeous cover art by Kristina Tsenova; Cover Layout by Kenda Montgomery
A quarterly collection of awesome, selected and edited by The Book Smugglers
Collecting original short fiction, essays, reviews, and reprints from diverse and powerful voices in speculative fiction, The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac: Volume 2 is essential for any SFF fan.
IN THIS VOLUME (SEPTEMBER 2016): ISABEL YAP, SUSAN JANE BIGELOW, JAVIER GRILLO-MARXUACH, MICHAL WOJCIK, KATE ELLIOTT, JIM ZUB, ANNA HIGHT, SEANAN MCGUIRE, YOON HA LEE, YUKIMI OGAWA, MIMI MONDAL, TANSY RAYNER ROBERTS, ANA GRILO AND THEA JAMES
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