Exclusive Interview: Meet the Hosts of “LITHAPPENS: A Ladies of Literacy Podcast”

MuggleNet is excited to announce our new partnership with LITHAPPENS: A Ladies of Literacy Podcast, which is joining us for its second season. Ladies of Literacy was a book club for nine years until its members decided to start a podcast in 2020. Its first season included a chapter-by-chapter read-through of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, occasionally interspersed with other novels.

Dr. Shay Price, a high school principal and one of the hosts of LITHAPPENS, explained the goal of the podcast:

I think the number one thing that we want people to know [is] that we are a diverse group of women that love ‘Harry Potter’ […]. And it’s our goal to get people to see that ‘Harry Potter’ can relate to all people, not just a certain group of people. We’re teased a lot because we’re Black girls and there’s this stigma that Black people don’t like ‘Harry Potter,’ or whatever. […] It was our mission to make ‘Harry Potter’ relevant to all people. On the podcast we talk about everything; we make it relevant.

In each episode, the hosts of LITHAPPENS reflect on the connections between the chapter they’re reading and their own lives. Shelita Freeman, a ninth-grade English language arts teacher and another host of LITHAPPENS, spoke about how Harry Potter has actually helped her gain more confidence in their podcast:

When you think about Harry and his friendships, people just believing in him, and surrounding him […] and just putting him in a place where he feels, ‘Okay. I can do this. […] I’m going to do this.’ For me, just having a village with Shay, and the ladies in [the] book club, it’s like, ‘Okay, we do have some good stuff here.’ […] Let’s see who will respond. Let’s see where it goes.

These reflections have also helped members of the club connect to one another. Shay recalled one episode in particular about the Mirror of Erised:

There are lots of tears in that episode if you listen because one of our members lost her mother and her only brother within a 10-month time span […]. Shelita asked the question, ‘If you could look into the mirror, what would you want? What would you see?’ She said that she would just want to see her mother saying that she’s done well. […] We never really talked about that before. The book – the discussion – brought that up.

Part of what the Ladies of Literacy love about Harry Potter is also what they believe makes their podcast so special: the way different perspectives on characters shift your reading. Shelita says that “characters may be portrayed one way based on how you view life, or the way you were raised, or where you come from.” Shay added, “That’s one of the special things about our podcast. We break those down, and we don’t all have the same opinion.”

Season 2 is going to have more of these real discussions and reflections through the lens of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This time, however, each episode is going to have an organizing theme. Family and friends is going to be an important theme in Chamber of Secrets, as well as a focus on some of the new characters introduced in the book, like Tom Riddle, Dobby, and Gilderoy Lockhart. Every third episode of the season will be about a book the club is reading other than Harry Potter. The first one to look forward to is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

The women in the book club are looking forward to this new partnership with MuggleNet. 

We’re excited that there’s a broader platform where more people can see us and tap into us. We’re educators. We love education. We love learning. […] Other people needed to hear this, but we didn’t know how, and so we’re just excited,” Shay said.

So please join us in welcoming LITHAPPENS to the MuggleNet community, and check out the first episode of Season 2 today, September 19, wherever you listen to podcasts. For a preview, see the link below:

 

 

Full Transcript with Shay Price and Shelita Freeman, Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Sophia Jenkins: If you can both introduce yourselves for the recording, and then I can guess what your Hogwarts houses are, [and ask] if you could have any job in the wizarding world, what would it be?

Shay Price: I'll go first. I am Dr. Shay Price. I'm I am a high school principal in Maple Heights, Ohio. I'm actually starting my 20th year in education this year. Of course, as you said earlier, I am a proud member of Gryffindor, and if I can have any job in the Wizarding World, I probably would be a professor. Professor McGonagall is my shero (she-hero).

Sophia: So, Transfiguration Professor?

Shay: Yep, I will be teaching Transfiguration. And then I probably would do History of Magic because I was a Social Studies teacher. I love history. So those two.

Sophia: You would make a better professor than Professor Binns, I'm guessing.

Shay: I'm sure! Because the ghost isn't... That's not working. [laughs]

Shelita Freeman: I am Shelita Freeman. I am a ninth-grade English Language Arts teacher and I have been teaching for 19 years. [I] love, love, love just working with kids, and just getting those a-ha moments where they find where it finally clicks. I am a proud member of Slytherin. I [represent] Slytherin as best as I can with all the hate.

[Everyone laughs]

Shelita: And, I don't know. It's a toss-up. I think it changes from time to time, where I would want to be a professor at Hogwarts or work for the Ministry of Magic. So it flip-flops; it goes back and forth. So right now I actually dyed my hair black in honor of Snape, so I'm feeling [like] being a professor at Hogwarts, currently.

Sophia: And would potions be your class, or?

Shelita: Potions, or I also like history as well, but Potions... We'll just go with potions right now, as my mind is all over the place.

Sophia: Nice. Sounds good. I'm Sophia. I also have worked in education. I was in a first-grade classroom this past year. I'm a Hufflepuff and I think that I would want to be a Herbology professor, but also [being] a wandmaker like Ollivander sounds pretty cool.

Shay: Oh, wow!

Sophia: So since you're joining us for season two of your podcast, we might have some readers who haven't listened to the first season yet. How do you describe your podcast to people, what would you say is your goal for it, and who do you think your intended audience might be?

Shay: You wanna answer?

Shelita: I'm sitting here like, "Okay!" [laughs]

Shay: Do you want me to answer?

Shelita: Yeah. And then I'll chime in.

Shay: Okay. So for those who haven't listened on the first season, I think the number one thing that we want people to know [is] that we are a diverse group of women that's love Harry Potter but also have compassion for the arts. And it's our goal to get people to see that Harry Potter can relate to all people, not just a certain group of people. We're teased a lot because we're Black girls and there's this stigma that Black people don't like Harry Potter, or whatever, and it's so far-fetched. But we're teased a lot. It was our mission to make Harry Potter relevant to all people. On the podcast we talk about everything; we make it relevant. A lot of feedback we got back from our first season was that we had listeners who have never picked up a Harry Potter book or ever watched a movie, but they loved the podcast. We did it as a reread. We went chapter by chapter, and that's the number one thing that we got back. Like, "Oh, I understood! You guys made it so relevant!" That was our goal. I think that was it. We are a book club too, and so we read everything. We love all genres. We discuss anything and I think that's what we were wanting to do, just make sure that everybody knows that there's something in Harry Potter for everybody. You don't have to be a certain person. You don't have to look a certain way. You don't have to be of [a] certain ethnic background. It's for everybody, and you don't have to be 11 years old either. Because what Shelita and I failed to mention is I'm 42, she's 41.

[Shay and Shelita laugh]

Shay: I think the youngest person in our book club, or who does the podcast, is turning 40 on Saturday, so. That's pretty much what we were going for.

Sophia: Nice. So did you all start out as a book club first and then decide to do podcasts? Or how did that conversation come about? How did you make that decision?

Shelita: We were a book club first. Actually, this is year nine for our book club. Every year we try to do something different, or just experience something different. With the pandemic going on last year, creatively having an outlet just to venture into something new... Why not? Why not do a podcast? Why not share with the world our book discussions? Because as a book club we have such phenomenal discussions that always branch off into something different, or goes down a different road, a different avenue based off of a character, or a plot, or just anything relating to whatever book that we're reading. I thought for myself, and there are some other members in our book club who said, "Maybe we should do a podcast." So just with the world shutting down, and just having that opportunity to sit, and think, and figure out how it works. That was our initial step into trying the podcast out for our book club. Our first episode was actually over the book The Alchemist and from there, I think we decided from there, "Okay, this might be something here." This was something special. It was something, I think, everybody, for the most part, enjoyed. So why not? Correct me if I'm wrong, Shay. It evolved into the, "Okay, you love Harry Potter, I love Harry Potter, we have a Hufflepuff member, Tanya, who loves Harry Potter. Why wouldn't we try to share and give our perspective, or our thoughts to Harry Potter as well, in addition to the books that we read as a book club."

Shay: Yeah, that's pretty much how it evolved exactly that. And the three of us, myself, Shelita, and Tanya, we've always loved Harry Potter and we tried to get our other book club members to either read it, or watch it, or something. We begged and pleaded for years. We even agreed to read a series once, and we put books in the randomizer, and of course, Harry Potter came up first. But just to keep down confusion, we changed it. Because even some of them were still under that, "That's kiddy," type thing. I think we just eased this in. The Alchemist went really well, and then Shelita was like, "Okay, we're going for this. We're going to try it. Let's do it." And then we go, "Okay, guys, we're gonna podcast Potter. Are you going to start reading or what?"

[Everyone laughs]

Shay: And that's how it went.

Sophia: Nice. So what do each of you personally find most compelling about Harry Potter? Why do you think it has stuck with you?

Shay: I think, for me - there's so many themes throughout the entire series of Harry Potter - but for me it's the friendships. I think friendship and family both go hand in hand, and they're seamless one into the other when they interrelate. I think that what J.K. did with that series for friendship and family was just special. So that's the most compelling thing for me. And the fact that even though Harry was destined for greatness, he couldn't have gotten there without his friends who became his family. So I feel like the successes that I have today, I couldn't have done without my friends who are like my family, and my family. I think that that was just so special in the way it was written. That's one of my favorite aspects of the entire series. That's it for me.

Shelita: I also agree with Shay in regards to friends and family, but one thing that has always stuck out to me about Harry Potter is perception. How characters may be portrayed one way based on how you view life, or the way you were raised, or where you come from. And then throughout the course of the series, you see that there are layers, on top of layers, on top of layers that you have to unpeel to really understand the character and why they are the way they are. I think J.K. does a phenomenal job, and I'm gonna go ahead and highlight Snape again because he's one of those characters where initially, you're like, "Who is this guy. Ugh." This, that, and the third. But as you begin to learn about his background and where he came from, you start to understand why he is the way he is, and then you fall in love with him.

Shay: Yeah, actually, to answer that: that's one of the special things about our podcast. We break those down and we don't all have the same opinion. That perception is based on your feelings. Should we just say what you grew up in, what household? Because [on] one of our podcasts, we had a great discussion about Snape as an educator. There was somebody on the podcast like, "I just can't believe you guys think that's okay for teachers to do that." And I'm like, "Why do you think it's okay for students to do that?" So that's one of the great things about our podcast that is very real, and those perceptions vary, and there's no one right way. That's what we do.

Sophia: Great. So, follow up question on that. In your podcast, you're often connecting the moments or themes in Harry Potter to your own lives. Is there anything important that you've learned about yourself or your friends from doing this, and how has your view in the series changed because of this practice?

Shay: Um, I think so. I definitely think so. For me, I have metastatic breast cancer. I was in remission for 11 years and then it came back in 2019. At that time I was rereading, and I actually listened to the audiobooks for the first time. By the time I got to Book 7, I just realized that there are certain things that Harry went through that he never gave up on. And so if you're resilient, and if you just stay the course, that things can work. And also if you believe. I think that I could see a lot of connections. Book 7 actually, this time, made me cry. I've seen that series so many times, but after my cancer came back Book 7 was even more special for me. It's one of those things where you don't have to die, you can live if you fight for it. So that was the special connection for me.

Sophia: Thank you for sharing.

Shelita: I'm trying to think. These are some really good questions. The only thing that's popping in my head right now... I'm an introverted person, so I keep to myself. I appreciate Dr. Price, here, because if it were not for her we would not be here talking to you right now. You put something in your head and you're like, "Okay, well let's try it out." And then you have all the doubts or, "Oh, this is not going to work," or you don't have this, or you don't have that. When you think about Harry and his friendships, people just believing in him, and surrounding him, and engulfing him, and just putting him in a place where he feels, "Okay. I can do this. Why can't I do this? I'm going to do this." For me, just having a village with Shay, and the ladies in [the] book club, it's like, "Okay, we do have some good stuff here." So yeah, let's put it out there. Let's see who will respond. Let's see where it goes. That's at the top of my mind right now.

Shay: And while it's Shelita and I doing the interview, we do have other ladies in the group. We're more of the voices and the organizers. But there was one episode... Actually, the Mirror of Erised. There are lots of tears in that episode if you listen because one of our members lost her mother and her only brother within a 10-month time span and that left her... She didn't have a sibling anymore and her mom passed away. Shelita asked the question, "If you could look into the mirror, what would you want? What would you see?" She said that she would just want to see her mother saying that she's done well. We were able to put love into her. We reacted to tell her that Dumbledore actually says you can't look in that mirror. You can't dream so much that you forget to live, just to paraphrase. That's what we talked to her about, that you're living now. You're doing these things and we know your mom is proud, but we never really talked about that before. The book - the discussion - brought that up. She had never said that to any of us before, but we were able to show her love, and to build her up, and encourage her more, and to let her know that you are doing a great job and that you can't dream, dream, dream and forget to live. So those are just some of the things that I think about how the book has inspired us in real life.

Sophia: That's very powerful. I do think that that's true, how talking about books can really bring out things in your lives and connections that you might not have had otherwise. That's great. So for people who have listened to season one, is there anything that different that they should expect in season two?

Shay: You could answer that one Shelita.

Shelita: [laughs] Yes. [In] season two we changed the format slightly. Instead of doing a re-read, we went through Chamber of Secrets and came up with some themes that were relevant, or prevalent, or just hit on, or that we saw over, and over, and over, and we made some shows about it. We also, in the midst of that, though, are going to throw in some of our book club books. For example, I do believe in our season we will discuss the Chamber of Secrets and then, as a bonus, there will be some versatile books outside of Harry Potter that we, as a club, will discuss.

Shay: Every third episode would be a different book. So we'll do two Chambers of Secrets theme, then the third one will be one of our book club books.

Sophia: Nice! How do you pick those book club books?

Shay: Well, it depends on the host. We allow the hosts to pick, and we do different things depending on the season. We just had to talk this through because we had already decided for the podcast that we would do 3 then [a] book club book. Well when we had book club for our first meeting in August, they wanted to do a series. And I think Shelita and I both start looking at each other immediately, like, "Um, I don't know about that."

[Everyone laughs]

Shay: But to balance it out so that the majority wanna do a series? That's fine. We're okay with doing a series, but we agreed that on the third book we will read an additional book besides the series book to podcast, and so that's very exciting. So in essence, every third month we'll have two books: the series that we're reading, as well as whatever book... We can go ahead and say that the first one will be The Vanishing Half because we've already recorded it. So that was a book that we read recently. We recorded it. So one of them will be The Vanishing Half. Actually, I get to pick for October. I don't know what I'm going to pick yet but it's going to be something that we're able to have a great discussion around.

Sophia: Nice. And what are some themes that we can look forward to from Chamber of Secrets?

Shelita: Well, of course family and friends. We hit on that strong. Just, again, watching the foundation of Ron, and Harry, and Hermione continue to grow as we left off from the Sorcerer's Stone. We would be remiss not to do a series on Tom Riddle. [I'm] trying to think off the top of my head.

Shay: We have Tom Riddle, we have Dobby... Those are just special people that we did, but then we're doing a Death Day/Halloween theme. We're doing Christmas at Hogwarts. We did Privet Drive versus the Burow. That's the theme. Did I say Gilderoy Lockhart? Didn't we talk about him?

Shelita: Yeah.

[Short silence]

Shelita: We're doing this off the top of our heads, frankly.

Shay: Those are just a few I know though because the first one is just a recap of the whole book. We did that, and then I know it was friendship and family, and then, like I said, the Burrow versus Privet Drive. Death Day is coming up, so the Death Day/Halloween [episode]. I know Christmas at Hogwarts.

Shelita: Dumbledore's quotes.

Shay: Right!

Sophia: Nice. And so [for] at least one or two of your other book club members, was this their first time reading Harry Potter, or? I think you mentioned for at least one person.

Shay: For several of them.

Sophia: For several of them? How has that been like, talking to someone who hasn't read the whole series, and having those discussions? And what have their reactions been to Harry Potter?

Shay: I think it's been a little nerve-wracking for Shelita and I - and Tanya, who's read the series - because some of them haven't even finished the series yet. They've started. I think the farthest they've made is up to Book 4 or Book 5, so everything is always, "Okay. No spoilers! No spoilers." Finally, it was just like, "Okay, guys, listen. It's hard to podcast this thing and be really real when we can't look at it from a scope, even though we're only talking about the Sorcerer's Stone, we want to make connections to things." But on the other side, it's been so rewarding just to see them [be] like, "Oh my God, I did not know that!" You know? It's just like, "You didn't tell me that!" So that's kind of fun. It's kind of like [the saying] six in one hand, half a dozen the other, because it's really fun once they see something. After they read Azkaban it was like, "Wait a minute, now." I'm like, "Yeah, I always tell you that stuff get real after Azkaban! It's over from there." [laughs]

Sophia: [laughs] Yeah. So true. What are you all excited about for this partnership with MuggleNet?

Shay: I think we're both so grateful and it's just that we're excited that there's a broader platform where more people can see us and tap into us. We're educators. We love education. We love learning. We love our family. We love our friends. We were just doing this [and] wanting to be bigger because we knew it was good. Other people needed to hear this, but we didn't know how, and so we're just excited. The fact that somebody even said, "Yeah, this is good," was a lot for us. Sometimes we do get our own heads and, like Shelita said, she is introverted but she's very talented. She's very smart. I will do the talking for her because that's just me, but sometimes I get in my own head too. Like, "This will never blow up." And it did, and I think we're so grateful for the opportunity. We won't let you guys down, that's for sure. We just can't say thank you enough, and we're glad that our voices will be able to be heard by other people.

Sophia: Have you made any unexpected connections with listeners through through making a podcast?

Shay: Not anyone that I don't know. I'm not sure about Shelita, but I've gotten a bunch of my teachers to listen that are Potterheads. I see them in different lights now, and they don't see me just as their principal. We connect on this level, and we relate to some things. They'll ask me, like, "You didn't send the link for the podcast today!" That type of thing. But I haven't made any connections with any listeners that I don't know.

Shelita: I'm going to say the same, but I would like - post-COVID, if you will - [to go to] a lot of activities or things that go on in the area that celebrate Harry Potter. And just be able to go and network and meet other like-minded people. For the first time since we've been celebrating Harry Potter or gotten together, we actually did Harry Potter trivia on his birthday, and that was the first time we've ever done anything like that. So it's like, "Oh my goodness, we have to do more of this! We need to get out there and just enjoy and celebrate with people who understand." But again, pandemic. We're working through that and hopefully, once all of this is said and done, we can take this show on the road.

Sophia: That sounds great. That would be fun. I think that's all of my questions, but is there anything else that you wanted to talk about, about the show? Anything that I didn't ask about that you'd like to share.

Shay: I think, for the most part, the one thing that I'd like for people to know is: listen. Listen and enjoy. For me, I've read Harry Potter over, and over, and over, but this go-round, going back through, rereading, and looking for points to discuss, or looking for things to share, especially with the people that were in our book club who've never read it, trying to see it from a fresh perspective, it has just been so invigorating. It's like, "Oh my gosh, I'm looking at this through a different lens." So I encourage people, "Hey. Listen. Hear us out. You may see something differently, or hear something and be like, 'Oh, I never thought of it that way.'" Just to get a fresh perspective. And then check us out because some of the books that we do read in our book club are popular. We did Firefly Lane which was excellent because the Netflix series came out, which we did watch. So we do try to pick fascinating stories to read because they cause great discussions. So just listen, I guess [that] is what I'm trying to say.

Sophia: That seems like a great note to end on.

 

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Sophia Jenkins

My name is Sophia and I’m a Hufflepuff living with my pet pig in New York City. On a daily basis I like to channel my inner Luna Lovegood by reading Harry Potter analysis books (upside down, of course) while wearing my large collection of miniature food earrings. When my best friends get tired of me bringing every conversation back to Harry Potter I sit down at my computer to share my obsession with the readers of MuggleNet.

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