Author Kelly Yang’s renowned Front Desk fictional series for middle school readers is based on her experiences as a Chinese child who immigrated to California with her parents. In New from Here, Yang invites readers into a fictionalized narrative based on her family’s hasty departure from Hong Kong in January 2020 when the novel coronavirus, later named COVID-19, first appeared on the Chinese mainland. With three days’ notice, Yang and her three children, all American citizens who had visited the United States numerous times, left their home; Yang’s husband remained behind to earn an income to support his family.
Yang’s fictional characters—12-year-old Bowen, 10-year-old Knox, and 6-year-old Lea—are based on her children and the challenges they faced when they arrived in California. In author notes, Yang writes, “In the months that followed, life threw one curveball after another at us, as we navigated distance learning, ADHD, medical insurance (and lack thereof), a volatile toilet paper situation (and lack thereof), and surging racism and anti-Asian hate. I had immigrated to America once before as a young girl. But immigrating to America the second time, during a pandemic, tested me like never before.”
New from Here, which includes some instances of profanity, is a compelling—at times painful; at other times humorous—window into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and their parents alike. Exacerbating the ravages of the virus is the pandemic of racism that accompanied it. As Bowen, Knox, Lea, and their mom, come to terms with the racist behavior they encountered, Mom says, “The racism in this country affects all of us. … Black, brown, Asian, Indigenous. And it’s not okay!” Knox relates the family’s emotional response: “We cry for the Asian Americans who have been spit on and assaulted. For the Latinx essential workers getting turned away from grocery stores. We cry for the double whammy of fear—fear of the virus itself and fear of racism, a pandemic just as terrifying.”
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)