Books by Kelly Yang (author of Front Desk) always bring me joy. She tackles important and challenging issues, such as immigration and xenophobia, but reading her work never feels like a heavy lift. The warmth her characters share is simply too strong to ever be overpowered by ignorance. In her newest book for young readers, New From Here, Yang continues to dazzle us with the power of family bonds and the endless imagination of children.
New From Here is based on Yang’s own family’s experience. They were living in Hong Kong in early 2020 when COVID first arose and she and her children returned to the United States while her husband stayed behind to keep working. In the book, the Wei-Evans family is facing exactly the same situation. They are United States citizens, but they have been living in Hong Kong for many years and the added stress of returning to the United States at the beginning of the COVID pandemic causes family tension. This is especially true for our narrator Knox and his older brother Bowen.
Knox is ten, Bowen is twelve, and their little sister Lea is a first grader. Leaving Hong Kong without their dad, Bowen starts to act more like a drill sergeant than an older brother. Knox feels like he is blamed for everything that goes wrong, even when he is just trying to help. Plus, Knox is just finding out that he has ADHD. Suddenly his impulsive behavior is starting to make some sense, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the consequences. Their mom is suddenly solo parenting and leaving Hong Kong means she loses her job. There is a lot of pressure on this family. When COVID starts to appear in the United States, anti-Asian rhetoric and behavior begin to impact the Wei-Evans family and their community.
Despite all of these challenges, Knox remains an incredibly amusing protagonist who is constantly looking for ways to improve any situation, even when his solutions tend to get him into even more trouble. He always has good intentions and his family provide him with endless support. Even Bowen starts to see Knox as an important ally.
New From Here is one of the best family stories of the year. The love this family shares for each other shines throughout the story and makes this a very enjoyable read. Kelly Yang at her best– and that is saying something.
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
Identity 1: I know and like who I am and can talk about my family and myself and describe our various group identities.
Diversity 9: I feel connected to other people and know how to talk, work and play with others even when we are different or when we disagree.
Action 17: I know it’s important for me to stand up for myself and for others, and I know how to get help if I need ideas on how to do this.