Beyond the Books: Why Hermione Matters

All my life I have always been a voracious reader, as the daughter of a librarian, I guess I didn’t have much choice. I read more books in my childhood than I can remember, but the really good ones have always stuck with me; their characters and lessons making me think, and shaping me into the person I have become. Harry Potter, as most HP fans will confirm, was one series that was particularly significant to me.

There are so many incredible characters in this series, a few of my favorites being brave-at-heart Neville, individual Luna, animal-loving Hagrid, and the strict-but-fair Minerva McGonagall. Each of these characters, and many others had, and continue to have, profound effects as I grow and change as a person, with different characters becoming more important depending on the situations I find myself in. One of the first characters to be important to me as a little girl (I was nine when I finished the series) was Hermione Granger.

Hermione was really one of the first literary characters that I could fully relate to. While there were, other characters whose journeys I could relate with, Hermione was the first character I felt I could actually become. Both Hermione’s physical and personality traits were things I found relatable in a way that no previous book series had been. Hermione’s physical description was something that was particularly important to me as a child, she is only described as having bushy brown hair, brown eyes, and (at least for part of the series) buck teeth, there is no further description as to her race. The relative lack of a description allowed me to visualize myself as Hermione, something that as a half-Hispanic half-white girl, was always difficult.

Growing up, I never really felt like I could fully relate to either part of my identity, and going to a school that had a large number of both Hispanic and white kids made me aware that I didn’t really fit into either category. I dressed up as Hermione one Halloween and actually felt like I was portraying the character in an accurate way (something that was very important to me after seeing movies that did not accurately portray a character’s appearance).

Beyond Hermione’s physical appearance, I was also inspired by Hermione’s multi-faceted personality. Though Hermione was nerdy and a know-it-all, the character was, refreshingly not confined to these personality traits. In hindsight it was very beneficial for me, a girl entering the years when many young women begin losing confidence in their intellectual abilities, to read a book which featured a strong, intelligent, and often know-it-all female character.

I distinctly remember proudly telling my mother during the first couple of days of the sixth grade that I felt like Hermione because I was constantly raising my hand to answer the teacher’s questions. While this may not seem like a big deal, as an almost painfully shy person, I still sometimes find it difficult to speak up during class. The feeling of pride that I felt at a young age helped me start to break out of my shell. Finally, Hermione’s bravery in the face of adversity has been something I have always valued and done my best to emulate. Although I was obviously never placed in the same situations Hermione faces in the books, I used Hermione as inspiration to try and find my own courage in social situations that made me uncomfortable.

The sign of a good book is whether it can make you think or question your values. There is no doubt that the Harry Potter series did this to me at a young age. Reading about the journey of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, helped me define the kind of person I wanted to become, as well as understand that the person I already was: someone who was legitimate and worthwhile. Perhaps children’s books are some of the most important. And because of this, I think the world needs more “Hermiones” to inspire girls to both accept who they are, as well as reach for their goals.