Protagonists who are outsiders are common touchstones in Children’s and Young Adult literature. I’ve always been drawn to such characters, but especially towards those who feel excluded from their communities and grapple with how they see themselves in light of external expectations. In such stories I can see my own formative experiences, being of Chinese heritage and growing up in Australia as part of the diaspora.
I discovered a particularly powerful example of this narrative when I read children’s fantasy novel The Last Fallen Star by Korean New Zealand author Graci Kim, and saw so much of my own life mirrored in it. The book also reminded me of another speculative novel, one which I’d read as a teenager—Lirael by Garth Nix. Reflecting on the similarities between that book and The Last Fallen Star made me realise that Lirael had resonated with me in a strikingly similar way at the time I’d read it, though I’d originally been unable to articulate precisely why it was so powerful.