54 pages 1 hour read

Kelly Yang

New from Here

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide


New From Here is a middle grade novel written by Kelly Yang, published in 2022. Yang wrote the novel during the COVID-19 pandemic while she and her three children were in America and her husband was in Hong Kong. In the novel, Knox Wei-Evans, his mother Julie, and his two siblings, come to America to stay safe from the pandemic that is starting to spread in Asia. As they acclimate to life in the United States, the virus spreads throughout the world, and the children must learn to navigate life during a pandemic, racism directed toward Asian individuals, and life with their father across the ocean. Compacting their stress are the additional concerns that the family lacks health insurance, Julie is unemployed, and Knox is learning about his ADHD diagnosis. New From Here explores the Prejudice and Racism During the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Difficulties and Expectations of Assimilation, and The Experience of Living With ADHD through Knox’s and his family’s viewpoints.

Content Warning: The source novel and this guide contain numerous scenarios of racism as well as racist slurs. These incidents are largely, but not always, directed against Asian people in America. The novel and this guide also discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, reference death due to the pandemic, and describe the death of a Black American at the hands of the police. 

The 2022 Simon & Schuster paperback version of this book was used in the creation of this guide.

Plot Summary

As the novel opens, Knox and his family are discussing an imminent temporary move to America because of “the coronavirus,” which has taken hold in mainland China. The family lives in Hong Kong, a territory located in southern China. There are tensions in Hong Kong because of this, as people consider whether mainland Chinese citizens should be allowed to enter Hong Kong. Knox’s brother Bowen is treated differently in China at times compared to his siblings, because he looks like his mother, who is Chinese. When a bomb goes off in the local hospital, the family decides they must leave because they may not be able to get medical treatment should one of them get COVID-19. As American citizens, they plan to travel to the United States.

Andrew, Knox’s father, must stay in Hong Kong because he cannot leave due to his job. Julie, the children’s mother, is a banker and is told she can work remotely from the United States. The family is worried about being on an airplane during the pandemic, but they use safety precautions and are easily able to get into the US when they say they are coming home. They immediately experience racism as soon as they arrive in the US. Leaving from the airport, they are asked to get out of an Uber when their driver learns they have come from Asia. He does this because he does not want to get the virus.

Things are difficult for the family in California. Julie struggles to help the kids with their Hong Kong remote classes while she also must take care of the home while working full time. Her difficulties become obvious when the family has no clean clothes one day because she has fallen behind on laundry. The children try to help her as much as they can, but eventually, she is fired from her job when she refuses to leave the US. She fears that she may not be allowed back in the country should she leave, and her decision to stay reduces the family’s income and access to health insurance. Their stress increases when Andrew’s pay is cut, and he must move to a smaller home in Hong Kong.

Throughout the story, the children slowly learn about their mother and their grandparents’ experience in the US when they lived in the country when Julie was younger. Lao Lao and Lao Ye, Julie’s parents, were doctors in China, but they could only get jobs in restaurants in the US. They were homeless for a time and had to live in their car, and Julie got free lunch at school because of the family’s lack of financial means. In addition, they faced racism. Julie used to go by the name Wei Wei but switched it to Julie because of the discrimination she faced due to her name.

Julie looks for jobs but has a hard time finding any. The siblings unite and create a LinkedIn profile for their father and try to find him a job so that he can come to the US with them. Julie’s first interview is ruined when she must leave before it begins because Knox got in trouble at school, and she has to pick him up. The first interview the kids get for Andrew is ruined when Bowen, Knox’s brother, answers questions poorly, pretending to be his father. The next round of interviews for both parents goes well. Knox pretends to be his father and gets a second interview at a country club, while Julie passes two rounds of interviews and is asked to go to a third interview in New York.

Before Julie leaves for New York, her childcare falls through due to an illness in the babysitter’s family. The kids convince their mother to go anyway, and Bowen says he will be in charge. Reluctantly, she agrees, but tells them not to tell their father. While she is gone, the kids must confront racist attitudes against Bowen at track practice. Back at home, Bowen realizes that Knox has stolen his prized headphones, and he is furious with his brother. Angry, Knox packs his things and leaves. He cannot contact his father because there is no Wi-Fi for his iPad, but he composes a voice message to his father and another fake one from his father to himself, saying what he wishes his father could tell him. He spends the night hiding out away from home.

After her interview, Julie returns home and the three find Knox. As they enter their home, however, the iPad connects to the Wi-Fi, and Knox’s message is sent to Andrew. Andrew calls and is furious that the kids were left alone, and he insists that they all come home to Hong Kong. The kids want to stay in the US, and they have earned money through a garage sale to help Andrew travel to the join them. They have not, however, earned enough money yet to bring him over.

Julie is hired for a new position, and the children start remote learning because of COVID-19. Things are easier this time with remote learning, however, because Bowen helps everybody as Julie works. Meanwhile, Knox orders dinosaur suits to keep them safe from COVID-19, and the siblings start making deliveries for a local family restaurant. The restaurant allows them to keep their delivery tips, adding to their funds to help their father travel to the US.

One day, however, Knox suddenly starts to feel sick and has a fever. Julie takes him to the hospital, where Knox is placed in an isolation ward in case he has COVID-19. He wakes up three days later in a different room, and learns that his test was negative. Their father surprises them all by walking into the hospital room. Knox gives his father a folder with all the applications they filled out for him. The family discusses their experiences with racism in America, and they plan to hang signs around town decrying racism as soon as Knox feels better. Andrew leaves for the airport, but comes back, deciding that he must be brave and try to find a job in the US so they can all be together.