The Books

Harry Potter & the Prizoner of Azkaban Cover


Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Children’s Literature, Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic (US); Bloomsbury (UK)

Published: July 8, 1999

Number of Pages: 435


As Harry officially enters his teen years, a mysterious man named Sirius Black manages to escape from Azkaban Prison (A.K.A the Alcatraz of the Wizarding World). Since no one has ever escaped the fortress before, it is clear to everyone from Dumbledore and the Minister of Magic to Mr. & Mrs. Weasley that this dangerous murderer must have much more powerful dark magic than anyone had suspected.

As far as anyone can tell, Black’s first order of business with his new freedom is to finish the job he started 12 years ago—the job that lead to the murder of Harry’s parents.


The Ticking is the Bomb cover


The Ticking is the Bomb

Author: Nick Flynn

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company

Published: 2010

Number of Pages: 283


In 2007, Nick Flynn was among several writers and journalists who were invited to sit in on testimonials from former Abu Ghraib detainees. Around the same time, Nick Flynn was getting ready to enter fatherhood. This memoir explores his grapplings with both the implications of detainment and torture as well as his own past. All this while preparing to welcome a new little life into his own.


The Ties That Bind


Both books explore the treatment of prisoners and convicted felons—how far should governments go to protect their citizens? Where do you draw the line between protecting the masses and torturing the few?


In Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry’s main concerns are his new classes, Hargrid’s latest creature-related predicament*, trying to finally win the quidditch cup, and maybe learning more about that cute Ravenclaw Seeker. Of course, Harry being Harry, he also has that small matter of the crazy escaped murderer Sirius Black most likely plotting to kill him. It doesn’t help that one of his new teachers is adamant that Harry is going to die.

In the background to all this is the introduction of Azkaban Prison and its dark creature guards—the dementors. Dementors are creepy, hooded beings that literally suck all hope and happiness out of their victims. If given the chance, they perform the “Dementor’s Kiss” by sucking a person’s soul out through they’re mouth. It is the presence of these dementors that make Azkaban Prison truly unbearable—prisoners are literally unable to think a happy thought, let alone use magic to escape the fortress.


Although Headmaster Albus Dumbledore ultimately allows the British Minister of Magic to place dementors on Hogwarts grounds to protect Harry, he is actually very against the use of these creatures by the Ministry. Dumbledore maintains it is an incredibly stupid idea to entrust the most dangerous criminals of the wizarding world to creatures that will switch allegiance the second someone like Voldemort offers them a better deal with more victims. It is openly acknowledged by multiple characters throughout the series that subjecting someone to the Dementor’s Kiss is a fate worst than death. Nevertheless, those in power allow and even condone the use of what is essentially long-term torture on prisoners because they believe it is the only way to keep the Wizarding World safe from these criminals.


In The Ticking is the Bomb, Nick is awaiting the birth of his child. In light of his tumultuous childhood and the dubious mentorship of his parents, Nick is understandably unsure how to be a parent or how to guide a child through the dangerous waters of human morality. (Nick’s mother committed suicide and he didn’t get to know his estranged father until their paths crossed at a Boston homeless shelter.)


Meanwhile, America at large is still reeling from the leaked photos depicting prisoner abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The photos serve as compelling evidence that at least some U.S. military personnel have treated prisoners as subhuman and have subjected these people to torture. In the wake of all this, Nick is invited to bear witness by sitting in on some testimonies given by the prisoners describing exactly what happened to them.


Although one is a YA fantasy novel and the other is a dark memoir grappling with real life events, they strike strangely similar cords. Both books focus on normal, day-to-day life events sprinkled with steady reminders that, in a far away and unseen place, human beings are mistreated and tortured in the names of Freedom and National Security.



*A List of Hagrid’s Creature/Nonwizard-Related Predicaments (feel free to add any I may have missed in the comments)

  • Sorcerer’s Stone: Norbert, his illegal baby dragon
  • Chamber of Secrets: Aragog, his favorite giant spider, is suspected to be the monster from the Chamber
  • Prisoner of Azkaban: Buckbeak, his hippogriff, attacks a student (granted, that student deserved it)
  • Goblet of Fire: Blast-Ended Skrewts! Also reveals the story of his beginnings in front of a beetle with a very distinctive pattern around its eyes
  • Order of the Phoenix: Grawp, his little brother, takes up residence in the forest, which the centaurs are not exactly gung-ho about
  • Half-Blood Prince: Aragog dies and suddenly the other acromantulas no longer have to refrain from eating him


Up Next


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling and The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Merged covers for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Boys in the Boat

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