John Green: Don’t Forget to Be Awesome

Greens signing books

Remember how John Green was starting his tour at my school? They changed the venue to the public middle school nearby, which was a good call, because it was way bigger than our auditorium. But I still got to volunteer, and my students and colleagues still got to attend, with fancy reserved seats in the second row. We are so special.

My students in the audience

So here’s the thing about this “book tour”: whatever you’re picturing — signing, reading, Q&A — was only maybe 50% of the event. John’s brother Hank was also there, playing his nerd rock songs about Harry Potter and deep-sea anglerfish. Together they lead a huge online community of people who call themselves Nerdfighters; hence the 750-person immediate-sell-out packed auditorium for a “book signing.”

An example of what this looked like might be in order. At one point, John announced that his wife was about to come on stage (a big deal for fans, since she avoids John’s videos and all the internet hoopla — wise woman), but we got Rickrolled by Hank in a dress:

Almost five years ago, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out. My friends and I attended a massive concert in Harvard Yard featuring Harry and the Potters and Draco and the Malfoys. The line we still quote is, “Are you ready to save the world from Voldemort… BY READING?!?” Followed, of course, by an entire university green’s worth of geeky kids and adults screaming and waving books in the air.

The Wizard Rock and Nerdfighting communities, as you might expect, have a lot of overlap. (We met the founder of the Harry Potter Alliance, who was sitting in the row in front of us.) At one point John explained, completely without irony, “My brother and I are part of an internet community that fights to make the world a better place.” And an auditorium full of smart, funny, thoughtful, self-possessed, caring, amazing high school and college students cheered their heads off… and then stood up to shake their booties to a song about quarks. My friends, I cannot tell you how beautiful that was. People my age (which is also the Greens’ age) like to talk about how we wish the internet had been around when we were in school, and for me, this is why. A whole community of kids who celebrate their nerdiness and want to save the world by reading? Who might I be if I’d had that then?

After the show, I said to Arianna, “I feel like I just got hit by a truck of awesome.” The whole experience gave me warm, fuzzy hope — something I (and all of us) really need these days. Cheesy to say, but I walked in as just a fan of John’s books; I walked out a Nerdfighter.

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3 Responses to John Green: Don’t Forget to Be Awesome

  1. Pingback: Review: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green | Parenthetical

  2. Robin says:

    Love the huge nerdfighter community. Like you, I would’ve been thrilled by it as a kid.

    His new book is amazing — I always avoid books on this topic, and didn’t think I’d be able to read it, but what a marvel it is.

  3. Lexi says:

    YAY GISP REUNIONS! And other book nerdy things. :)

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