Tribute to JK Rowling

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

When the first few books of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series came out, I didn’t read them. My brother wanted me to, but I wasn’t into witches and wizards at eight years old, so I shrugged off the new mania for a few years. When the first movie came out, my brother wanted to see it, and talked me into watching it with him. Remind me to thank him profusely for it one day, because I saw the movie and demanded to borrow his copies of the first four books (the only ones out at the time). As the series finished, my love for the story continued to grow. In the end, each character’s death made me cry even in the middle of a calmer scene—and I never cry when reading—but I kept going to see if Harry would survive.

Since Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world’s first novel, we’ve seen awesome books throughout history. Authors like Dr. Seuss, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, and JRR Tolkien gave us wonderful reads within the last few centuries alone. So what is it about Rowling that makes her another giant in literature? Why do so many people admire her? What is it about her writing that gives us so much joy?

Well, it helps that Rowling herself is a wonderful person. An example of this is the story of a little girl named Natalie McDonald. In July 1999, a friend of the girl’s mother wrote to Rowling, explaining that Natalie had leukemia and wouldn’t live long enough to finish reading the series. The friend asked Rowling if she would write back to Natalie, telling her what would happen to her favorite characters. Rowling didn’t get the letter until after a long holiday, and though she worried Natalie wouldn’t hear back in time, she still wrote to her, telling her how the rest of the series would progress. Unfortunately, Natalie died before she could read Rowling’s email. Eventually, Goblet of Fire included a first year Gryffindor named Natalie McDonald, the only character in the series based on a real person (for more on this story, refer to here:

As great a person as she is, Rowling is equally admirable as a writer. It’d be cliché to say that Harry Potter got kids into reading, but it’s true. Before getting published, Rowling submitted Philosopher’s Stone to twelve publishing companies, all of whom rejected it. When she submitted to Bloomsbury Publishing, the chairman gave the first chapter to his daughter to test it. She read it and immediately begged for another chapter (for more details on that story, click here: Since then, thousands of others came to love Harry Potter just as much. There are even people I know who don’t read a lot and acknowledge Rowling’s series as a favorite.

But what is it about Harry Potter in particular that made Rowling famous? Part of it comes from Rowling’s imagination. She believed in the world of Harry Potter and its characters so much—and arguably continues to do so—that it didn’t take long for us to catch on. That’s the key to critical success as an author: she spent time with her characters, getting to know them. Rowling also gave us more than just an entertaining story. Books like Twilight and Fifty Shades prove that anyone can write a popular bestseller. But we’ll remember Harry Potter years later because Rowling was an author with exceptional perseverance, creativity, and wisdom.

On a personal level, I hope I’m not the only one to say that Rowling’s work made me want to be an author. She showed me the power of knowledge and imagination, and how to apply them to real life. She never gave us more than we could handle, but at the same time she challenged us to learn and grow alongside her characters. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a teacher or writer as she is, but I hope that my future books will be worthy enough for me to say that someone as awesome as JK Rowling inspired them. She taught so much, she gave so much, and she continues to do so. And we love her work as much as we love her.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Happy Birthday, Ms. Rowling”

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A Few Announcements

You read the title. You know what’s coming. Need I say more? Yes, or I wouldn’t be wasting an entire blog post about it.

First of all, this isn’t an official post. My extended family came to town for the week, so I didn’t have time to put something together in the last few days. If this for some reason inconveniences anyone, I apologize.

Second, there will be no official post next week either. This Saturday I will be heading north with my family, and we’ll be up there at least until the next weekend. I have something special planned for the 31st of July, but until then I’m taking a much-needed vacation to relax, tour Michigan, spend time with family, and work on my book.

And finally, I am now taking requests for my blog! Again, I have something special planned for the 31st, and there are a few other ideas floating around in my head. But aside from that, I could use any suggestions you might have! If there’s something you’d like me to write about, feel free to comment below or contact me via email ( or twitter ( Suggestions can be anything from entertainment to religion to politics.

So…yeah, that’s pretty much it. Until the 31st!

The Root of the Problem

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Sadly, the US of A has grown too familiar with the term “massacre” over the last couple of decades. From school shootings to bombs, we’ve learned not to treat weapons lightly. The most recent massacre happened on June 5, 2014, at Seattle Pacific University. And I don’t doubt that there will be more even after I’ve finished writing and putting up this post. Each reaction to these tragedies is usually the same: shock, grief, fear, anger. Schools tighten security in the hopes that it won’t happen to them. Parents demand that the government pass more restrictions on the use of firearms.

And that’s my biggest concern.

Now, it wouldn’t be prudent to say that anyone should have guns. To me, firearms are almost like cars; if you want to have one on hand, you have to know how to use it, and you have to prove that you’re responsible enough to be trusted with it. Police have guns on hand all the time, but I don’t think they hand out firearms on the first day of the job. But with that said, restricting the use of firearms won’t guarantee the end of violence. Remember those moments when you were a kid and you wanted chocolate, but your parents said no? What was your response? Did it make you hungry for vegetables, or did you want the chocolate even more? Or what about the kind of clothes you were allowed to wear at school? We had restrictions on the clothes we could wear in class, but that didn’t stop girls from wearing tanks or short shorts. It’s in our nature to want what we can’t have.

We have the same issue with illegal immigration. Some people are outraged that the number of illegal immigrants is shooting up and—for whatever reason—Obama is dodging the problem. The commonly suggested solution is to tighten security at the border, to do whatever it takes to prevent illegal immigration. While a big wall would certainly hold it off for a while, or thin the numbers a little, we have to remember that they’re determined to get into the States at all costs. Tightening security won’t change that. And stricter gun laws won’t stop anyone from getting their hands on weapons.

I understand that people are scared, but I don’t think that gun laws are going to prevent massacres from happening again. The guns are only a portion of the situation, but they aren’t the root of the problem. The root of the problem is the people who choose to use the guns, the people who feel as though they have no choice but to take down as many people as they can before taking themselves out. How do you kill a weed? You go to the roots.

Now, I’m a firm believer that people are responsible for what they do, but not for what others do to them. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. With that said, answering the question “What makes these people evil?” is a whole other argument. Whether it’s a mental health issue, a twisted idea of revenge, a harsh past, the activities of sociopaths, that’s a whole other discussion that I’m sure I’ll blog about on another day. But that’s not the point of today’s post. The point of today’s post is that solving any kind of problem takes a lot of thought, discussion, and action.

It’s true that getting to the root of the problem will take a lot of time, time in which others could die in similar situations. But then again, when has life ever been easy? Was it easy for FDR to act as president during the Great Depression? Was it easy for the surviving Jews to endure the Holocaust? Was it easy for Martin Luther King Jr. to stand for the Civil Rights Movement while receiving death threats towards him and his family? Of course not. But look at the good that came from so much horror in the last century alone. FDR helped America survive the Depression. The fact that even one person came out of the Holocaust alive is a miracle. And Martin Luther King Jr. helped to start a necessary change in America.

Bottom line: Getting to the root of the problem won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

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An Epiphany at Quincy Market

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

I recognize that this is a day early, but I won’t have access to my computer tomorrow, so I decided to post this today.

A wise friend of mine from college said that “everyone has problems. America is just more liberal about theirs.” And…yeah, that summarizes my thoughts on America for about eight years or so. My opinions have changed in the last few months, so a day like this—a day celebrating the independence of this country—feels so odd to me. There’s a lot that we haven’t accomplished, and there are many ideals that we need to keep pushing for. But on the other hand, we’re in a much better place now than we were the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, sealed, and delivered.

On the one hand, if we take a look at the centuries that followed American independence, what would we have to be proud of? We’ve stolen land and freedom from the Native Americans. We’ve stolen Africans from their home, took them across the sea, and enslaved them. When they fought for their freedom, we discriminated them and wanted nothing to do with them. We invited people all over the world to come to America and live the so-called “American Dream,” and then cursed them for existing once they got here. How can we call ourselves free when we’re slaves to judgment based on appearance and opinion? How can we call ourselves the United States of America when we can’t stand united on anything? How can we claim that we’re free when we have to live with the guilt that comes from what our ancestors have done and what we’re continuing to do to each other?

Those were the questions I asked myself six months ago when I found myself alone upstairs in Quincy Market, waiting to rendezvous with the rest of my class. As I wrote in my journal and indulged myself with a hot chocolate and small snack, I took a look around. I saw people interacting with one another, people of different backgrounds, ages, and interests. I heard someone playing the piano, and everyone in the market applauding when he finished. I saw people my age laughing and eating together like they knew each other for their whole lives.

And then it hit me: the Revolutionary War wasn’t a means to an end for America. It was a means to a new beginning in ways that even the colonists didn’t understand at the time. And just because we have the potential to make terrible decisions, that doesn’t mean we don’t also have the potential to choose what’s right.

Look at what’s happened since the Revolutionary War. The abolition of slavery. Women’s rights. The Civil Rights movement. Everything that I’ve mentioned and more have all played a huge role in allowing America to change for the better. And while I don’t think that the Revolutionary War made America a better place on its own, I do believe that it helped to make the growth of America possible. Do we still have a long way to go? Of course. We’ve learned to tolerate differences; we’ve still yet to learn to accept them. But does that mean we haven’t made any progress at all? Absolutely not. We’ve become a country made up of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. We’ve become a country where women are starting to be recognized as individual, independent people with their own ambitions and sets of beliefs. We’ve become a country where it’s possible for an African American to become president of the United States.

And then I got to thinking about the writers I’d been studying in January. Henry David Thoreau. John Greenleaf Whittier. Louisa May Alcott. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Emily Dickenson. Fredrick Douglass. We don’t just study them because they were eloquent with words. We study them because they allowed us to see different sides of the world, to explore ideas that no one thought to touch yet. During my time in Massachusetts, I learned that Thoreau inspired Martin Luther King Jr, the most famous figure in the Civil Rights Movement. And if that’s true, then that means Thoreau played a huge part in creating equal rights for all Americans. I think Thoreau would’ve been proud to see how much his work had been involved in America’s evolution. We may have injustices, but we also have people fighting them. If I can’t take comfort from that, then there are few things from which I can.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Happy Independence Day, America. Make the most of it.”

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