New York Times best-selling author, Kelly Yang, met virtually with Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students to discuss her new book, “New From Here,” and the hardships of being a student, especially during the pandemic. (Supplied photos)

New York Times best-selling author, Kelly Yang, met virtually with Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students to discuss her new book, “New From Here,” and the hardships of being a student, especially during the pandemic. (Supplied photos)

Author Kelly Yang visits Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School

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By Kelly White

New York Times best-selling author, Kelly Yang, met virtually with Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students to talk about her new book and the hardships of being a student, especially during the pandemic.

“What I liked best about Kelly Yang’s author visit was our ability to be able to connect and relate to her,” Sophia Falcon, 13, of Oak Lawn, said. “Celebrities, and specifically authors, always seem to have these perfect lives without any hardships or trials. When Kelly Yang told us about all the things she went through, and how she deals with it, you can really relate to her and sympathize with her.”

Yang is an Asian American writer and author of young adult and children’s literature. She came to America when she was 6 and grew up in Southern California. During her youth, she and her parents worked in three different motels. Yang eventually left the motels and went to college at the age of 13 and law school at the age of 17.

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New York Times Best Selling Author, Kelly Yang, met virtually with Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students to discuss her new book, New From Here, and the hardships of being a student, especially during the pandemic.

She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where she majored in Political Science, and Harvard Law School. After law school, she gave up law to pursue her passion of writing and teaching children writing, something she cherishes dearly.

“It meant the world for me to be able to speak to the students of Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School and share my writing journey,” Yang said.

During her virtual visit with the school on February 23, Yang read excerpts from her book “New From Here” that published in March.

The book is a fictional story about what happened to a family when the coronavirus hit Hong Kong. The 10-year-old main character, Knox Wei-Evans’s mom makes the last-minute decision to move him and his siblings back to California, where they think they will be safe.

Wei-Evan’s deals with an international move, leaving his father behind. Once he is in California, new issues arise, including racism during the COVID-19 surge.

“We are always looking for guest speakers to present to our students,” Heather McCarthy, Media Specialist at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, said. “Being able to have Kelly Yang speak to our students was a dream come true. ‘New From Here’ is a middle-grade novel about courage, hope, and resilience as an Asian-American boy fights to keep his family together during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. Kelly Yang’s novels are very relatable to our middle-school students, represent diversity, and are stories of perseverance.”

This was the first time Yang has presented to the students at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School.

McCarthy recently presented on a diversity panel through the Book Love Foundation at the National Conference of Teachers of English conference with Yang and made a connection there with the author.

“Kelly Yang writes about relevant topics that middle schoolers and the nation are experiencing,” McCarthy said. “There is no better way to navigate these tumultuous times and tough topics than through books. Kelly Yang’s books open the doors to the difficult conversations.”

Yang presented to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The first 100 students who signed up to see her presentation received a free autographed copy of her novel. The presentation was also recorded for any students who were not able to attend.

During the presentation, Yang talked about how she was born in China and moved to the United States when she was 6. When she moved here, she did not know a single word of English, but she quickly learned the power of the pen, just like the main character in her novel.

“There was something for everyone in this presentation,” McCarthy said. “She talked about reading, writing, her novels, and her life experiences. She talked about her own family and children, her struggles and her successes. Every student in the audience could make a connection to at least one thing she was discussing.”

Yang also shared writing tips before answering questions from students.

“I was so impressed by all the questions they asked,” Yang said. “I hope these bright, curious future leaders keep reading and writing.”

Students were thrilled by the author visit, especially young writer and Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School student.

“I would like to be an author when I’m older so I think it was really cool to be able to talk and ask questions to one of the best authors out there,” Angel Swiatek, 14, of Hometown, said. “I liked that she talked to us not only about her amazing books and what they’re about but also gave some tips to us young writers.”

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