I’ve written before about the misconception that fantasy is just an escape and has nothing to do with real life. My own experience proves otherwise. When I made a Sirius Black doll based on a moment in a Harry Potter book, I didn’t realize at the time that I was copying a moment that resonated with me because it reminded me of my divorce.

In 2004, my art doll club decided to make literary characters for a library show. I knew at once what I would make: Sirius Black in his tattered robes, reading the newspaper. In The Prisoner of Azkaban (POA), Sirius tells the others that he broke out of prison because he recognized the traitor Peter Pettigrew (in his rat form) in a photo of the Weasleys. Peter would be at Hogwarts where his godson Harry was, and Sirius was determined to protect the boy.

Sirius Black in Azkaban: art doll by Kit Dunsmore


What I didn’t realize at the time was why this moment, mentioned in passing, mattered so much to me. POA is my favorite Harry Potter book, full of amazing moments, characters, and ideas. There are hippogriffs, time turners, and werewolves. Why did I latch onto an imprisoned wizard reading a newspaper?

The answer came to me after the work was completed. Sirius Black was falsely accused and slowly dying in prison, but the newspaper photo inspired him to break out. Like Sirius, I spent nearly a decade feeling trapped. My first marriage was a mistake and the signs were there early on. But it took me years to find the courage to get out.


I spent a long time in the dark. I was in a deep depression for several years, a mental prison. We moved and I got a new job. I began to see that I was stuck. I needed to move on, but it took me a long time to accept that I would get a divorce. It would mean being on my own, giving up on my dream of having children, and living at a much lower income level for a while.

Sirius Black in Azkaban (detail): art doll by Kit Dunsmore

I’d already been single for five years by the time I read POA, so the book didn’t inspire me to change my life. But reading POA helped me appreciate what I had done. Sirius Black’s escape from prison gave me a new metaphor for thinking about what had happened and what I had done to save myself.

Sirius Black in Azkaban: art doll by Kit Dunsmore

I’ve always been drawn to fantasy. I want to live in a world full of magic, and Harry Potter is one of the ways I do so. But fantasy stories also give me much more โ€” a way to look at the challenges of life through a new lens. They provide metaphorical meanings and dramatic images to help us deal with real life. I suppose a literary novel about a divorce might provide me with comfort, too, but I prefer the magic and imagery of Harry Potter.

What about you? Has a scene in a fantasy novel ever reminded you of an event in your life?

10 thoughts on “The Unexpected Connection Between Sirius Black and My Divorce”

    1. Thanks! I tried to work from the description in the book, which left him looking super creepy… but he was supposed to be thin, pale, and wild looking. Sirius and Lupin are two of my favorite characters, which is probably why I love POA so much.

  1. The plight of Sirius Black reminded me that we should not be too quick to judge, particularly when that judgement is based on fear. Then again, on some level maybe all irrational judgments (or judgments made on shaky evidence) are fear-based. There seem to be some universal truths that come out in literature regardless of whether or not the author is aware of them. Of course, in JK Rowling’s work she knows exactly what drives her plots. It’s nice to see such a creative piece depicting this thought provoking character.

    1. I think the circumstantial evidence was pretty damning in Sirius’s case, which is how he wound up in prison. But you make a valid point. Taking things at face value can lead to big mistakes. thanks for your kind words.

  2. Dear Kit,

    I accidentally found this post, but I’m so glad I did. You have no idea how much I can identify with all that you wrote, both about the fantasy and the character of Sirius Black. Since childhood, for some 15 years now, Sirius was and still is a figure that kept me fighting through many, many years of depression and all sorts of problems in life. Having him as a role model made me braver and tougher than I maybe would have been, or I maybe just recognized the temperament, values, qualities (and flaws…) I already had in him, and connected to this character in a very deep way… He became an inseparable part of me as I was growing up. I never identified with anyone else this way, real or imaginary. And a big part of this identification was that I’ve also been “imprisoned” since childhood, and I’m still fighting to escape to freedom. So, I’m kinda ashamed to say it, but your doll made me very emotional. He reminds of Mary GranPre’s illustrations which I love so much. I assume it’s not for sale? ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you found the courage to fight for yourself and your happiness. I wish you all the best! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I am so glad you related to my story and that you like my doll so much. One of the reasons the Harry Potter series is so powerful is that the characters are so real and easy to relate to. J.K. Rowling build a whole world full of realistic people. Sirius says it himself: people aren’t black and white, good or bad. They are a mix and their choices show us what kind of person they truly are. And since we’re a ll a mix, too, it makes them very familiar.

      I hadn’t thought about selling him, but I could. Let me think about a price I could live with and I’ll send you an e-mail.

  3. That would be awesome! But I would feel awful if you would at any later time regret selling the doll, so please don’t do it if you think you’ll miss it. After all, it’s such a personal part of your life, and I live very far from the USA. It’s just that I fell in love with it immediately, it looks so… dear, precious and familiar, I don’t know how to explain it (it never happened before that I act on a whim and ask if something is for sale, especially not something I can’t use). But it looks exactly like my imagination of Sirius that it gave me butterflies in the stomach, plus I connected to your story so much, and I’m glad you escaped that “prison”. <3 Also, you made it the same year I first read OotP – the book that made me truly connect to this character and start growing into a person I am today. Whether you decide it's for sale or not, know that someone fell in love with your work! You're extremely talented and if you ever start designing more dolls (or anything else, I guess), I'm sure you could make a great business.

    Yes, JKR's characters are all written to seem so real, they almost feel like friends to me, so many times have I read the books. ๐Ÿ™‚ (That and LotR!) Though I wish real life and people would actually be black & white, it'd be much simpler to chose our fights and our purpose, if I may use such a fancy word. That's the reason I love epic fantasy so much – their fights are so grand and so obviously leading to a great victory of Good over Evil. In real life you can't always be sure what side you're on, leading to laziness and inactivity when we could do more good, and perhaps the feeling that we lack purpose in life.

    1. I do love this doll, because I made it and in a way, work that takes a lot of time like this did becomes like a child to you. But I also know the time comes when children need to leave home (or your house gets really really crowded). Over the next few days, I will really ask myself if it is time for Sirius to leave home or not, and then I’ll let you know what I decide.

  4. Just please take all the time you need and don’t make a decision you could regret! I feel bad for asking. ๐Ÿ™

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