By Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I don’t recall learning how to read or being introduced to books. My love for words is just as old as I am. It is at the beginning of me.
Yet, in all that time, there wasn’t a character I related to more than Hermione Jean Granger. I always accepted Hermione as a white character, as that is how she was introduced to me. As a lifelong black, female reader, I was already conditioned to seeing myself in characters that didn’t present like me. What made Hermione rise above the rest wasn’t just that we shared personality traits (Elizabeth Bennett had long topped my list of favorite characters for just that reason), but that we also shared the same struggles. Hermione’s whiteness never stopped me from recognizing her inherent ‘blackness.’
I know what it feels like to trust books more than people. I know what it feels like to love learning and relish having the right answer. I know what it feels like to be simultaneously liked and hated for being a “know-it-all” who genuinely couldn’t help correcting people. I also know what it feels like to carry the pressure of having to be better than everyone else in order to prove that I belong, having my “nappy/curly” hair considered a mark against me, being seen as inferior because of something beyond my control — namely my culture of origin. Our shared personality and shared struggle endeared Hermione to me like no character ever had before and my ownership of her was instantaneous.
The first time I was emotionally aware that the Harry Potter series wasn’t about Hermione was in the epilogue of “The Deathly Hallows.” Prior to the epilogue, there was no story without her. Without Hermione’s input, we wouldn’t have gotten past the first half of “The Philosopher’s Stone,” so even though I knew intellectually that the story was about some dude named Harry, it wasn’t until the ending of her story was wrapped up in eight lines within seven pages that I felt the truth of that knowledge. And I was devastated.
Despite identifying with her completely, Hermione differed from me in one key aspect: she had choices, she had a way out. To me, Hermione represented the hope that I also had choices and a way out. Yet, when I read her ending, all I saw was a woman that seemed insignificant and unremarkable.
Growing up poor, female, and black meant that my whole life was about making decisions, not choices, that would all lead up to my insignificant and unremarkable ending. Decisions are rooted in limitations and, until the epilogue, that was something I had imagined Hermione to be free of. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being insignificant and/or unremarkable, but it felt forced on Hermione. There was no context given for why. And that was unacceptable for me. I never needed her to be perfect but I did need her to be free. Free to make mistakes, free to make a mess, free to be brilliant, free to be legendary, free to even be insignificant and unremarkable.
About The Series: Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis features a black Hermione who wakes up at 25 and decides that she doesn’t want to stay with Ron Weasley, remain in the UK, or grow up to be Minister of Magic. Instead, she moves to LA where she reconnects with her old Hogwarts roommate, Parvati Patil, her witty, feminist Muggle cousin, LaQuita Granger, and Draco Malfoy. She also meets a couple of new friends, including an Ilvermorny grad/hacker named Juniper Diaz.