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Happy 20th, Harry Potter, and thanks for teaching me English

Two decades after J.K. Rowling published the Harry Potter book that started it all, CNET's Patricia Puentes muses on the magic the franchise has brought to her life.

Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) in the first Harry Potter movie.  
Warner Bros.

I was already an adult (legally, at least), when the first Harry Potter novel came out on June 26, 1997. Even though I haven't technically grown up with the books, the franchise starring the wizard with round glasses has a special place in my heart. I've devoured all the novels and seen all the movies, resulting in a number of strong opinions: I'm not a big fan of Chris Columbus' versions, not necessarily happy with Alfonso Cuarón's and very much devoted to David Yates' vision.

"The Philosopher's Stone" was the first unabridged book I read in English (Spanish and Catalan being my native tongues and English "just" a second language). I still have that book. It's full of annotated translations of what then seemed very complicated words. You know, your typical broomstick, wand, owl, sorting hat, cauldron and cloak.


J.K. Rowling, author of the "Harry Potter" novels.

My reading also allowed me to discover that author J.K. Rowling has a talent for neologisms and uses terms I wouldn't find in the dictionary: mudblood (a magician without wizard lineage whose parents are humans); patronus (a figure generated by a wizard while he or she wants to fight the negative forces of the dementors); and dementors (creatures that feed on humans' positive feelings and guard the prison of Azkaban). 

I need to thank Rowling for helping me learn English and English grammar. But also for teaching me jargon whose only use might be this article.

Even though it is Harry Potter's 20th anniversary, I feel more like celebrating Rowling's 20 years as a public figure and author. To me, she's one of the greats of English literature -- on par with Jane Austen, Ian McEwan, J.R.R. Tolkien and Doris Lessing. I can picture her, writing in random Edinburgh cafes when she was an unemployed single mom and couldn't predict the fortune and success that awaited her. 

A few years ago I discovered Rowling was actually the author of a detective novel set in London and written under the pen name Robert Galbraith. I ran to the bookstore (I probably could just have run to my computer and opened the Kindle store) to get "The Cuckoo's Calling," Cormoran Strike's first adventure. That title sealed my admiration for her. I like her epic story about a boy with magic powers who saves the world and has to confront an evil force portrayed by Ralph Fiennes without a nose. But I love her noir novel that perfectly contains all the ingredients of the genre.

Even if you have never read any of her books and have just consumed her universe audiovisually, Rowling is a fascinating person. Her Twitter account is an open door to the life of a woman with a sense of humor and strong opinions. Stephen King tweeted her a few days ago begging for help because President Donald Trump had blocked him on Twitter. Rowling offered to send Trump's tweets to her writer colleague as direct messages. If she's keeping her promise, she must be very busy retweeting. 

Also on Twitter, she keeps fans like me informed with news about the small screen adaptation of her detective stories. She has written three Galbraith novels so far. I have read all of them. I can't wait for the BBC show.

I don't care if she tweets, writes scripts, plots new Galbraith novels or blogs on Pottermore. I just hope Rowling gives us another 20 years of her writing.

Read the Spanish version of this story.

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