On the Mortal Instruments series

The Importance of Being Malec

Windows, Mirrors, and Cassandra Clare's Queer Characters

By Sara Ryan

With the right slant of light, every window becomes a mirror.

–Mitali Perkins

If you hang around with people whose idea of fun includes analyzing literature (and if you don’t, I commend you for reading this book anyway), you’ll eventually run into the concept of mirrors versus windows.

A mirror book, as you might guess, is a book where the characters have significant things in common with the reader. For instance, a white, straight, midwestern girl reading a book about white, straight, midwestern girls would be having a mirror-type reading experience. A window book provides insight into characters and places that are less familiar to the reader. For that same white, straight, midwestern girl, a book about a gay Latino boy in New York City whose dream is to become a makeup artist would be a window read. Both kinds of books are important. If you do nothing but look in a mirror when you read, your sense of the world won’t be very expansive. But if you’re constantly looking through windows at characters whose lives in no way resemble yours, it can make you feel alone.

If you’re a queer or questioning reader, it’s way easier to find windows than mirrors. If you’re looking for young adult books with LGBT characters, good luck: According to an analysis by YA author Malinda Lo, only .2 percent of YA books published between 2000 and 2011 featured LGBT characters. Not 2 percent; point 2 percent.

So what do you do when you can’t find mirrors?

One  …

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