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New from Here

Cover: 'New from Here '

Staff Review: "New from Here " by Kelly Yang

★★★★★

When COVID-19 hits Hong Kong, one family is forced to separate and span two countries in an effort to protect each other. 

Based on the author’s own experience during the start of our current COVID-19 pandemic, the author tells the story of Knox and his siblings when they’re forced to travel from Hong Kong to California in a matter of days. Thinking California will be safer for their kids, the parents are forced to live on different continents while struggling to maintain their jobs and their safety, and dealing with the rising racism that grew exponentially during our current pandemic.

For the children, it’s a journey of self-discovery, friendship, and new experiences, with wonderful life lessons for readers along the way. I loved how Knox told his brother Bowen that “Being the man doesn’t mean being harsh. It means you’re kind to those you love (339)".  I also loved how the characters grew in their relationships with each other especially. In their own way, each family member struggled in the beginning with loneliness. As Knox tells readers, “…just because you have a lot of people around you doesn’t make you less lonely. It just makes your loneliness more squished (26)." 

Along the way they realize the power of family and friendship, of how family accepts you for who you are, and in the end, how everyone is connected. As Knox so wonderfully puts it, “If we’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that we’re all connected to each other. We all breathe the same air into our lungs. None of us are immune to each other’s problems. That’s why we have to care about each other (328)."

I think every reader can relate to parts of this story after the last few years. For those like myself who have the privilege not to experience racism like the characters in this book, my hope is that empathy, compassion, and a desire for change bloom in the face of these characters’ (and so many others’) experience with racism. As the author so powerfully puts it, racism is “…a pandemic just as terrifying” (343) as our current pandemic. This is a must read, along with the author’s other fantastic Front Desk series!

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

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