Lyla Lee is the author of the “Mindy Kim” children’s book series. The books follow Mindy, a second-grader who is 7 1/2 years old. After her mom’s death, Mindy and her dad move from California to Florida.
“In California, [Mindy] is in a neighborhood where there’s a lot of girls who look like her. There are a lot of Asian people. But in Florida, there isn’t that many kids that look like her, and because of that she feels very lonely and out of place,” Lee says.
Mindy is Korean just like Lee. Lee and her family moved to California when she was 5, and then she moved to Florida, and then to Texas. In the books, Mindy experiences some of the same things that Lee did when she was growing up.
“I got bullied on the playground a bit for being Asian,” Lee says.
But Lee changes the narrative in her books. Mindy is proud of how the food she eats is different than that of her classmates. She makes friends with the other kids by trading her Korean snacks.
Lee says that she loved the book “The Magic Tree House,” “Junie B. Jones,” and other book series when she was growing up, but felt that there was something missing.
“They were about white kids,” Lee says. “So that’s why for me, as an author, it was very important for me to write about kids who look like me so that kids today have that representation in literature that I didn’t get to see when I was growing up.”
Written by Morgan Kuehler.