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On Being a Hufflepuff and The Sorcerer’s Stone

The first things I did on my Harry Potter journey were:

1. To create a Pottermore account.

2. To pick a Siamese cat as my animal (I now somewhat regret this decision made because I love the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp – my first learning moment).

3. To be selected by a redwood, unicorn core wand (I mistakenly thought that my wand was made from unicorn horn and I was all excited that a unicorn selected me, but I was later disabused of this fantasy when I kept hearing about unicorn cores by others. So, while a fine wand selected me, it is much more utilitarian than I had first believed.)

4. To become sorted in the Hufflepuff house.

I did all of this because when I joined Sheila’s Harry Potter Re-Read Challenge, I needed to select one of her four images when I wrote my post. I had no real concept of house, even though the shield images gave some ideas as to the character associated with them. The first one that appealed to me was in fact Hufflepuff because the name sounds comforting. When the Sorting Hat confirmed that initial tug in that direction, it made me happy and excited to begin the books having already been sorted into a house.

The Cover of Sorcerers StoneI finished The Sorcerer’s Stone having enjoyed the experience. I even kept a co-worker or two entertained as I gave play by plays of what happened. One co-worker caught me at just the right time when I was mad at Hermione. I may have called her a b*tch and accused her of readily agreeing to test Snape’s hypothesis that his sh*t didn’t stink. The very next chapter I warmed to her a little, but right now I’m a little ticked at her reaction to Harry and Ron’s less than spectacular arrival back at Hogwarts for their second year. She needs to cast an anti-judgy spell against herself, but I suspect her undying admiration of Gilderoy Lockhart (I call him Gordon Lightfoot in my head) will assist with this greatly. Oh, and back to my point: as I finished The Socerer’s Stone, I noticed there wasn’t much Hufflepuff action. I am thankful not to be a Slytherin, but I was saddened when Hufflepuff found itself in last place at the end of the year.

Over the course of reading the book and discussing it with others, people inevitably laugh as me when I say, “I’m a Hufflepuff!” or get this knowing look in their eyes as if to say, “it all makes sense now.” My book club on Tuesday had a grand old time laughing at me because each and every one of them had read the complete series. We talked about it so much (our selection, Dope by Sara Gran, was a moderately enjoyed book and we did discuss that first) that they all registered on Pottermore to get sorted into houses. Of the five of us, there is one Gryffendor, two Ravenclaws, one Slytherin, and yours truly, the only cuddly Hufflepuff of the bunch.

I’ve been dying to find out why “it makes sense” that I’m a Hufflepuff for a while now. Thankfully a coworker, who smirked immediately upon hearing the first Huff of Hufflepuff let me in on the secret, which is this:

For the record, I am not now and have never been lactose intolerant!

To those of you who have laughed at me since I’ve undertaken this journey – Screw You!!!!! (but only in the very friendliest of ways!)  At 1/3 of the way through Chamber of Secrets I fully believe that the House of Hufflepuff needs a hero. Unless and until one rises in J. K. Rowling’s literature, I am prepared to be just that. I am Hufflepuff! Hear me make whatever vicious noise it is that badgers (not aardvarks – I’ve now figured that out, too) make!

Interview with Anthony Breznican & Brutal Youth Giveaway

Last month I read and reviewed Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican, a book that really hit me in that tender little patch that remains my teenage heart. I loved and adored this novel for its honest portrayal of the challenges of high school that never really leave you no matter how long it’s been since you last graced the halls of your high school. I was thrilled to also have the opportunity to interview the author and, if I do say so myself, I made the most of it. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did. You’ll also find instructions for entering to win a free copy of Brutal Youth inside to anyone world wide. Go clueing for looks for your chance to win!

If you’d like more information about Anthony, check out his website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. On with the interview!

Literate Housewife: Confession time. I was just as excited to read your novel because of your connection to Entertainment Weekly, my favorite magazine, as I was because I attended Catholic high school. Would you mind sharing a little about your job at EW and what it’s like to work there?

Anthony Breznican: Its pretty much the dream job if you’re obsessed with movies, books, TV, music and pop culture. I started out as a general news reporter for the AP — cops, wildfires, earthquakes, politics, protests — but I’m fascinated by how creative people work. I love telling the stories of storytellers. In college, I had a poster of Clint Eastwood on my wall as The Outlaw Josey Wales. Now I’ve interviewed him a dozen times, and I hope in my own writing I can capture a side that you don’t see on screen. Steven Spielberg, Angelina Jolie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Those are some of my other favorites. And I’ve talked to some elusive ones, too, like Cormac McCarthy and Terrence Malick. It’s a great job. I’m very lucky.

LH: Completely hypothetical question: Can you be bribed to add a loving reader with Benedict Cumberbatch to the center of an upcoming edition of Bullseye?

AB: Bribery is always an option. I’ll send you a pricing menu.

Hey, look! Benedict wants in on this, too (with a little help from Jennifer Smeth). Readers, would you support my Get Literate Housewife in the Bullseye with Benedict Cumberbatch Kickstarter? Let me know in the comments section for a chance to win a copy of Brutal Youth. You get two entries if you provide a snappy caption for my Bullseye debut with The Batch. I’ll select a winner (There will be no discrimination of those too cheap to fund me, I promise.) on November 18th.

Me, Ben and the Bullseye

LH: It seems a pretty common thing to joke about not wanting to ever go back to high school. How is it that St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School became the setting for Brutal Youth?

AB: I realized that I spent 18 years trying to grow up and get out — then spent the next 20 trying to go back. This dark coming-of-age story in Brutal Youth sprang from the idea that those four years in high school shape us (or warp us) much more than the decades that follow. But I didn’t want to just tell a high school story. I hope my crumbling, dog-eat-dog high school of St. Mike’s is a kind of metaphor for life — a multi-tiered look at our struggle for power and control, and how we use it when we finally get it. Some remember what it was like to be powerless, and use their strength wisely. Others dump their fury on others as a way of asserting dominance or “punishing” someone, anyone. Pain either makes people empathetic or unjust. I thought high school would be a good battleground for those behaviors.

LH: All of your characters are interesting, but two of the adult characters stood out to me: Ms. Bromine the guidance counselor and the teacher Mr. Zimmer. They both attended St. Michael as students, but had wildly different high school experiences. Ms. Bromine very much wants to recreate the magic she experienced leading up her graduation and Mr. Zimmer wants to be a beacon of support to students who struggle. If the two of them were to put workplace politics aside and sit down and discuss their vision for the school, would they find common ground?

AB: That’s a great question! The truth is, a lot of problems at St. Mike’s would actually be resolved if people trusted each other or simply talked to each other more. Isn’t that true of real life as well? Mr. Zimmer is a good guy who looks out for the weaker kids on the fringe, and he truly puts his neck on the line to do that. His heart is in the right place (it’s just out in the open where people can stab it easily.)

Ms. Bromine is a different case: you describe her perfectly as this former Queen Bee who reigns over her old school as an adult but resents the kids who’ve replaced her. Don’t we all know types like her? She’s one of those “Well, back in MY day …” kind of people. Ms. Bromine might welcome dialogue with Mr. Zimmer, but only if she thought it would be a way to bend him to her will. She’d lose interest when it came to compromise. She’s an angry, bitter person. Weirdly, Zimmer is the one who was treated horribly as a student, and she had a lovely time as a popular girl and teachers pet. I think he learned something in those halls that she never did. (And some think Brutal Youth doesn’t have happy endings, but I think one of these two does. It’s bittersweet for sure, but look at who has to stay, and who gets set free.)

Anthony-B-07519-crop-1-370x540LH: Reading Brutal Youth was a powerful experience for me, a grown woman heading home to Michigan this month to attend her own 25th high school reunion. Have you received feedback from those currently in school? Are there any interesting differences in the reactions you’ve received from teens versus adults?

AB: Adult readers are way less forgiving of the adults in the book, all of whom have weaknesses, blind spots — or are outright broken or twisted in some way. Teen readers get that we’re seeing everyone’s fatal flaws, but also the moments of bravery and selflessness that I hope define the book. Kids seem to relate more to the experience of being pushed around, probably because they’re still in the thick of it. All of the behaviors in the book really do happen (even the thieving priest, which is based on the real guy who ran a parish in my hometown). Most people will look at Brutal Youth and say, “Thank God my high school life wasn’t THIS bad,” but I think that’s because we’re remembering our own personal battles, and this book pulls back to see the entire mechanism — many, many different instances of double-crossing and broken hearts. St. Mike’s is a fractured place, and I wanted to show the trickle-down.

When I meet kids who say they’re bullied today, and they’ve gone to the teacher or school administrators and been brushed off, I tell them to look for someone else who is like them, someone who is hurting or being picked on. Stick up for that person, even if you can’t stick up for yourself. Suddenly you’ve made friend, and you can see you aren’t so alone.

LH: After thinking about Brutal Youth for a few weeks after finishing it, I keep coming back to Stein and his story. This kid chose to allow others to think the worst of him so that they wouldn’t know the damning truth about someone else. His actions were noble and worthy of the utmost respect, but those he loved the most continually let him down because it was easier for them to judge Stein. It broke my heart. Are there any characters that still remain with you? Are they the ones you might have expected or did they surprise you?

AB: You describe Stein perfectly! He’s one of those rare people who is willing to absorb hurt so others don’t have to. He’s fearless, and he stands up for people whether they deserve it or not. We all should have a friend like that. The two characters who remain with me are Sister Maria, the school principal, and Lorelei Paskal, the girl whose homelife is so bad she’s determined to be popular at school, no matter the cost. Each of them does things that the reader doesn’t — and shouldn’t — like, but I feel sympathy for them anyway. Sister Maria is one of those politicians whose always explaining compromise as the only way to get something done, but even she, during my favorite scene in the book, breaks loose and does something bold, and crazy, and heroic to protect one of her students.

And Lorelei does the opposite — we like her and care about her, then she betrays someone. I left the reasons for that betrayal open to interpretation (with a lot of clues around it), but some readers feel it should be explained more. So my explanation is: people who are told over and over again that they’re worthless often come to believe it, and when they get something good in their lives, they tend to destroy it. Lorelei is betraying someone else, but also sabotaging the one happy thing in her own life. I feel for that girl. I’ve stepped on a lot of my own dreams over the years. Poe and Coleridge wrote a lot about our subconscious desire for self-destruction.

LH: What are your future plans? Are you working on another novel? Can you share any details?

AB: I’d love to return to the world of Brutal Youth. I’ve got more trouble in store for these kids. Peter Davidek, the main character, reaches the end of this first novel no longer needing his parents or other adults to help him. Where does he go now that he’s on his own two feet? Stein and Lorelei each ended in places I’d rather not leave them, and I think they both have a journey ahead of them that readers would find satisfying. Even the side characters … I’d love to see Ms. Bromine come to a realization about who she is and try to change. She’s addicted to her own anger, and trying to shake that won’t be easy — especially since she was so unforgiving when others tried to redeem themselves. Imagine her actually trying to be nice, and no one will accept it.

I’ll get to that story one day, but next up I think I’d like to direct the shadows in my brain toward something in the suspense genre. That’s what I’m currently typing at now. I can’t say too much about it now, but I hope it scares the bejeesus out of you someday.

LH: Thanks so much for entertaining my bribery and my questions, Anthony! All silliness on my part aside, anyone who comments with thoughts about Brutal Youth, this interview or additional questions for Anthony Breznican will always be entered for a chance to win this book. Good luck!

Fingersmith Read-A-Long ~ Chapters 15 – 17

Spoiler Alert: This post and any comments left on this post may contain spoilers from the Fingersmith in its entirety, including the ending. Fingersmith bookmarks: I finally found the PERFECT things I needed to make the bookmarks at Michaels. Unfortunately, I left the bag in my backseat on a day when I took my daughter […]

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Winter Readalong ~ Harry Potter Series

Hufflepuff

Sheila at Book Journey is hosting a winter readalong of the Harry Potter series. As my regular readers are probably aware, I’ve never read the Harry Potter series. It was one of the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of this year. I had even toyed with setting up a challenge similarly […]

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Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Cover of Brutal Youth

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican Published by: Thomas Dunne Books . Published on: June 10, 2014 Page Count: 410 Genre: Fiction My Reading Format: Hardcover book purchased prior to being invited to join Breznican’s book tour. Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook Summary from the Publisher: Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a […]

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Fingersmith Read-A-Long ~ Chapters 11 – 14

Spoiler Alert: This post and any comments left on this post may contain spoilers from Chapters 1 – 14 of Fingersmith. For those who have read ahead of the schedule, please do not include any information about what happens beyond Chapter 14. Let’s get started talking about this week’s reading: This past week did not […]

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Fingersmith Read-A-Long ~ Chapters 6 – 10

Spoiler Alert: This post and any comments left on this post may contain spoilers from Chapters 1 – 10 of Fingersmith. For those who have read ahead of the schedule, please do not include any information about what happens beyond Chapter 10. Let’s get started talking about this week’s reading: This week I am almost […]

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Fingersmith Read-A-Long ~ Chapters 1 – 5

Cover of Fingersmith

The Fingersmith read-a-long is finally here! I hope that you are all enjoying the book as much as I am. Quick note about this week’s conversation: I am having a dental procedure this afternoon. I’m not scared of dentists as a rule, but this will involve a scalpel and stitches. I also, knowing it was […]

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Book Tour ~ Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Cover of Rooms

Rooms by Lauren Oliver Published by: Ecco Published on: September 23, 2014 Page Count: 320 Genre: Fiction My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the author’s Marketing Assistant in order to participate in her book tour as well as the audiobook I purchased from Audible.com using a monthly credit. Audiobook Published by: Harper Audio […]

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Literate Housewife is Taking on The Stand

Cover of The Stand

Last October I revisited my first ever Stephen King novel, Pet Semetary, as part of Jenn’s Bookshelves First Book to Terrify Me feature. Since it was such a fun experiment for me, I thought I’d pick another King novel to read this year during 2014’s Murder, Monsters, and Mayhem. This year I’m choosing something new, […]

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