About halfway through the first year of this pandemic there was already talk about writers working on books that dealt with the pandemic. Publishers announced, multiple times, the First Novel That Deals With Covid. ⠀
⠀It was news that was met by the general public with a less than enthusiastic response. “I don’t want to read about this while it’s still happening,” was the sentiment I kept coming across. “Fiction is for escapism.” I mostly agreed. There will be, hopefully, plenty of time to dwell on the trials and tribulations of this whole ordeal after. Why would I bother reading about something I was living through now?⠀
But of course that’s not entirely true. We all may be going through the health crisis, but our individual experiences of it are never going to be exactly the same. And experiencing the world through the eyes of other people is what fictions is all about, much more so than simple escapism.⠀
That said, while I still feel some apprehension to pick up stories that deal with our present predicament, of course I would make an exception for middle grade, since fiction aimed at young people tends to deal with current, immediate issues much more effectively and sympathetically than most other forms of literature. It’s that immediacy and sense of urgency that puts it at the forefront when it comes to conversations of diversity and representation. It’s important for us adults to see our lives on the page, but it’s much more important for kids to see theirs first. ⠀
I can’t think of another story out right now that seems to represent all of the standards above more than New From Here by Kelly Yang, a story based on the author’s own experiences of moving her family from Hong Kong to California right at the beginning of the pandemic, and the struggles they faced in the ensuing rise of racist attacks against Asian communities in the United States.⠀
As someone who has been privileged enough to only deal, for the most part, with increased isolation and anxiety during these strange, tumultuous times, New From Here feels like an important and necessary experience to witness.