Opening three years after the close of Dawn of the Dance, and set in a small city in Michigan, Mirrors focuses on secondary characters introduced in Dawn: high school teacher, Jean Carson and feminist attorney, Shayna Bradley. Mirrors is well written with realistic characters and depicts important, painful issues for gays and lesbians living in the more conservative regions of the country. Especially those with careers in public education. The novel opens with the new history teacher, Dan Sanders,being fired because the high school principal decided Sanders was gay. Sanders, we're told was not "obvious" nor had he behaved inappropriately to any of the students. Indeed he actually had students liking history. But teaching performance is not the issue. The principal doesn't want queers working for him. As in most of America there is no protection for gay teachers regarding discrimination in employment.
Jean is a thirty-something, physical education teacher. She has spent the last 12 years married to Ken and devoting her time and energy to her students. The latter has helped her avoid some realities about the former. Namely Ken's desire for children and Jean's reluctance for them. It turns out that Jean's avoidance of additional commitment to Ken is rooted in her ambivalence regarding her attractions toward women. This is especially true of her feelings for her best friend, Shayna. A relatively open lesbian attorney who specializes in assisting women in legal struggles, Shayna uses her work to avoid really committing to her girlfriend. Despite their years of perfecting defense mechanisms, neither woman is quite prepared for her feelings for the other. Feelings that grow as both disentangle themselves from dying romantic relationships.
Coming out is a process, not an event, and it's rarely easy. That's one of the themes of Mirrors. Indeed the book provides three reflections on coming out via Jean, Shayna and Lindy, a student at the high school where Jean teaches. Lindy has been struggling with her own sexuality and suffers the routinely harassing attention of several of the male jocks at the school. She will ultimately be attacked because her baby butch appearance threatens some of her classmates. It is Lindy's story that will force Jean to face her own closet, accept the gift of Shayna's love, and risk her job, in the hope of saving other young students.
Martin also provides a mirror for society to consider its role in protecting our young people from bigotry and hate (not to mention rearing them to express said hatred). Mirrors is not my favorite Martin novel; --I prefer her Clan of the Doe stories with Sage Bistro, et al.-- however it is a very good story that can not be told too often. Look into Mirrors, you will no doubt find yourself reflected there as well.