It’s that time of year again! The Geekettes plan to celebrate this year’s Festival of Lights by sharing with you some of our favorite Jewish authors and how their faith/culture influences their works. For Night One, I would like to talk about Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments series and creator of the first famous Jewish vampire.
Jews represent only a small percent of the population, yet their contributions to the Arts have always been disproportionately great. Many of the legendary literary classics had Jewish authors, from Franz Kafka, to Catcher in the Rye’s J.D. Salinger, to the sci-fi master Isaac Asimov. However, if you’re looking for some more recent Jews in popular lit, you’ll have to look a little harder. That is, unless you stick around all week as we point them out.
You know where else Jews lack representation? Among the hot, blood-sucking undead. Cassandra Clare decided to rectify that with her character Simon in City of Ashes, the second installment of The Mortal Instruments series.
Cassandra herself is Jewish. Though she has described herself as “not religious,” (source) she still counts, since Judaism is both a religion and a culture. In any case, her Jewish heritage undoubtedly inspired her creation of one of YA’s first Jewish vampires. Her decision to make Simon a vampire stemmed from the fact that vampire lore is steeped in Christian imagery. In a tumblr post, Cassandra Clare described how all that talk of crucifixes and holy water can be alienating to non-Christians. “I wanted the scene where Simon recoils from the Stars of David in his cell in City of Glass to mean as much for a Jewish reader as the scene in Dracula [of thwarting a vampire with a communion wafer] might to a Christian reader–that as deep an emotional and spiritual importance is attached to the Magen David by Jews as is attached to the crucifix by Christian,” she said. Even more moving for me was when Simon tries to recite the shema when he is in mortal peril and finds that he can’t even say the prayers of his faith anymore without choking on the words.
Apparently, the idea to make Simon a vampire all started when Cassandra’s cousin begged her to make a Jewish vampire so that Jews could feel included in the “cool” vampire trend, too. Now thanks to her we can list Simon Lewis among such admirable and spooky cultural icons as Angel, Edward, Dimitri, and Lestat.
Who is your favorite Jewish author? What do you think of a Jewish vampire? What other faiths need representation among fanged fictional characters and what religious items would deter them?
Chat with us in the comments and enjoy Night the First!