Publishers' Preview: Spring 2022: Five Questions for Kelly Yang

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2022 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2022, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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When COVID-19 drove Chinese American Kelly Yang and her children to leave their Hong Kong home for California, having to explain that they were New from Here was an unexpected part of their journey, which provided the seed for this novel.

1. What is the most significant fictional diversion from your own pandemic story?

Writing this book during lockdown while single-parenting three kids. I can’t describe the lengths I went to in order to draft the manuscript. Let’s just say they were some of the most interesting circumstances I’ve ever had to write under. Yet the words flowed out of me because I knew this story was so important to tell. I hope it makes us reflect upon our collective experience — every family had to go to extraordinary lengths to get through those challenging times.

2. Do you think of New from Here as historical fiction?

I absolutely do. It reflects a unique point in history — both in my own family and in the larger world — when everyone was navigating a pandemic we knew so little about. At the same time, we worked to hold on to the joy, hope, and love that binds us, as families, as communities, and as human beings.

3. What has surprised you most about yourself in living through the pandemic?

How long I can go wearing essentially the same outfit (pink sweatpants and a sweatshirt)! That and the ability to disappear into stories, which I think is the only way I got through the pandemic.

4. And how are your kids holding up?

They are doing well! Eliot, my oldest, has joined the track team at school. Tilden, my middle child (Knox is based on him), has joined band and taken up the trumpet. He loves Miles Davis (and my quiet writing days are…a thing of the past). Nina, my youngest, is passionate about dance. Each week she brings home dizzying new moves. All three are loving life in the States and are thriving.

5. What is one book that has been getting you through these difficult times?

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I continue to be in awe of his talent.

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Photo: Jessica Sample.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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