Are Books Windows or Mirrors?

Think of a novel you enjoyed recently. How did the protagonist remind you of yourself? On the other hand, what did you glean about living a different kind of life?

My guess is that you can answer both questions fairly well, because the best novels serve as windows and mirrors. Jhumpa Lahiri's books, for example, may be more of a mirror to me than you, but chances are you enjoy them as much as I do.

The publishing industry doesn't seem to expect adults to appreciate only those books that are mostly mirror-ish. Why, then, do we seem to hold that expectation for young readers? Here are a couple of phrases I overhear when people are talking about Kid/YA books:

"I just don't have that kind of population in my town. Nobody's going to want to read it."

"Hey, I'm going to need more multicultural books now. My community's changing."

But why should kids read differently than we do? Why should we expect white kids to want to see their own faces reflected when it comes to race and ethnicity? Wouldn't it be great if we promoted novels that serve as windows and mirrors for the kids, teens, and tweens in our communities? Because with the right slant of light, every window becomes a mirror.