Simon Lewis, Jewish vampire

 

The thing is, people are going to read a book and bring to it their own interpretations, interpretations you never intended, conclusions it would never have occurred to you anyone would draw. Opinion is often shaped by personal preference and experience, which is not anything you can calculate for, because everyone is different.

So what I can do here is say two things. First I can explain why Simon’s Jewish. Vampires in literature are surrounded by a panoply of Christian iconography. Crosses. Holy water. There is the scene in Dracula in which they press the Host to Mina’s forehead and it burns her.It’s a shocking, moving moment — but if your religion isn’t Christianity it is also a bit of an alienating one because you cannot quite relate.

The idea that making a character a vampire is making them de facto evil, a “bloodsucker” (Simon’s a vegetarian, and drinks animal blood out of bottles) , a loathsome figure, is a very dated one. It is not how modern media generally portrays vampires. Edward Cullen, Lestat, Angel, Spike, the hot brothers from The Vampire Diaries, Mitchell from Being Human, Bill and Eric from True Blood, are not loathsome and horrible, they’re badass beloved sex symbols. (And they’re all, as far as I can tell, Christian.)

When I started writing the TMI books my cousins begged me to have a Jewish vampire in the books, because vampires were cool. (Which discussion led to Simon’s line about checks for eighteen dollars scaring off Jewish vampires - it makes sense, really.)* 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 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 Christians. I was happy when one of my beta-readers, Steve Berman, told me that the scene where Simon thinks he is going to die in City of Ashes so he tries to recite the Shema ** (Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad) — but chokes on the words — made him cry.

I suppose it might be one thing if all the vampires in the series were Jewish. But the head of the vampires is Hispanic and Christian: the vampires we see in the Hotel Dumort are white and black and Hispanic and Asian. Simon is Jewish because I had literally never read a book with a Jewish vampire in it and I wanted there to be one. He’s Jewish because I’ve had tons of kids (and adults — Michelle Hodkin, who wrote The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer****, did a signing with me in Long Island and the first thing she said to me was that she was so glad Simon was Jewish) come up and be thrilled that a Jewish guy got to be a hot kickass immortal vampire, that Jews are not shut out of what is (like it or not) a massive mainstream cultural trend.

And lastly, Simon is Jewish because of all the characters, he is the most like me, and I am Jewish. Which is something I am guessing that whoever posted that about Simon did not know. The general assumption is that I am Christian because the general default assumption, from my Western readers, is that everyone is. I’m glad Simon is not.

* Chai means life. The numerological value of the letters that spell chai add up to eighteen. When we get checks for birthdays or Bat Mitzvahs, they are in denominations of eighteen, for life.

** Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One — the last thing we’re supposed to say before we die.

*** Note to goyim: You know how I have to explain all this stuff? (Usually in emails.) It’s because there are almost no Jewish characters in fantasy fiction. I never have to explain last rites, or the Lord’s Prayer.

*** She also wrote a great essay called “Simon Lewis: Jewish Vampire” for Shadowhunters and Downworlders.

V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha.

  1. thelastplaceweleftoff reblogged this from cassandraclare and added:
    So, I just saw this, and it kind of made it better for me. I didn’t know he turned into a vampire though, so man,...
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  9. ladyknightthebrave reblogged this from cassandraclare and added:
    Us Jews gotta represent!
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    many reasons why...love Simon, because,...never come...
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