But a Caribbean Harry Potter? And I don’t mean a parody or anything like that. I mean an authentic hero in a children’s book whose foundation is the myth and folklore of the Caribbean and whose protagonist practices the magic and rituals of the Caribbean.
In other words, while not discounting the vision and stamina of J.K. Rowling in creating Harry Potter and the subsequent support of her publishers and readers to see the project to its end, what other factors would be needed to create a Caribbean Harry Potter? For the challenge that any Caribbean writer would face in creating a series such as Harry Potter in the Caribbean would be what Coleridge has called the “willing suspension of disbelief” which is essential in creating any fiction. Let me explain.
Besides being firmly entrenched in the world of English boarding schools (a world that I know only too well), the foibles of British life (read any novel by Sam Selvon or the other exiled Caribbean writers from the fifties), and the British civil service (Monty Python or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Harry Potter is firmly grounded in the milieu of Grendel, Narnia, Lord of the Rings and the folklore that predates the imposition of Christianity on the Celtic and Germanic tribes in what is now known as the United Kingdom. Much of British literature and indigenous nature religions such as Wicca share this common mythological background that is viewed by many, sometimes on purely nationalistic terms, as an alternative to Christianity. The existence of Wicca legitimizes a character such as Harry Potter because an a priori assumption of the Harry Potter series is the existence of “good” wizards. This would be the main challenge for a Caribbean author in writing a children’s series in the manner of Harry Potter. For although the nature religions of Great Britain and West Africa share many archetypal similarities, if an author were to draw on the myths of the Caribbean that derive from the religion of the Yoruba people of West Africa (Lukumi, or Voudoun ), she would have no problem creating a credible “evil” houngan or wizard. She would, however, have an extremely difficult challenge in dispelling in her reader’s mind that there could exist a “good” Voudoun wizard to which parents from the Caribbean (or anywhere else for that matter) would want to expose their children -- never mind that Harry wears the mark of the warrior Xango.
This is not to say that J. K. Rowling books have not been mired in religious controversy and that the Harry Potter series has not been accused of being the gateway to practicing witchcraft and devil worship. But Harry Potter’s magic is perceived as a benign practice. And even Lord Valdemort as bad as he is would be no match for Baron Samedi. In other words, Wicca may be have a little “good,” but Voudoun is thoroughly evil. And this has always been the puzzling factor for a writer, like me, who is interested in archetypal/mythological themes in literature. For while it is possible to write a children’s book using the nature religions of Great Britain, it is unthinkable to write a children’s book using the nature religions of the Caribbean. Or you could write it, but who would buy it?
But enough of this idle speculation. On July 21, my children, who have all grown up on the Harry Potter series long before it became popular and was only sold in independent book stores like Books and Books, will join in the Harry Potter celebrations. My eldest will wear her Gryffindor regalia; the younger will wear her T-shirt that says, “Hagrid is my Bitch,” and my son, who is waaay too cool for all of this hoopla will probably hold out until he realizes how much fun we’re having. And as the pattern has gone for the last six releases, my eldest will begin reading the book as soon as we get home and finish it by about eight or nine o’clock. She will then hand the book over to her sister or brother, and no matter how much we probe and beg, she will never reveal the ending. And with this release, I’m sure she will never tell even if we threaten her with a spell of cellulite in unwanted places. And for what it’s worth, given J.K. Rowling’s incredible gift to this generation and many more to come, Harry will live.