If you’ve done any amount of air travel, you know that airports are perfect places for people-watching. And if you’ve ever encountered a flight delay, you’ve seen firsthand how overcrowded terminals combined with the frustration of changed or canceled plans can become a recipe for a uniquely stressful environment. That mixture makes a busy Chicago airport the perfect setting for You Are Here: Connecting Flights, a collection of linked short stories written by a dozen of the most acclaimed Asian American writers for children and young adults and featuring Asian American characters discovering their strengths and voices.
You Are Here opens with Christina Soontornvat’s contribution, which follows a boy named Paul as he prepares to pass through airport security with his parents, little sister and grandmother for a flight to Thailand. He learns that his grandmother has a secret in her carry-on bag, which begins a chain reaction that reverberates throughout several other stories.
The collection takes place on the weekend before Independence Day, so many characters are heading off on summer adventures, such as Mike Chen’s Lee, a talented Chinese American guitarist who’s en route to visit his uncle, and Susan Tan’s Ari, who’s navigating the recent divorce between her Jewish mother and her Chinese father. Others are preparing to discover their heritage through visits to their family’s countries of origin, though Meredith Ireland’s Mindy isn’t as eager to visit her Korean birthplace as her white adoptive dads seem to be.
Many characters experience racism and must find ways to counter stereotypes, including some that are internalized. Characters’ paths cross just like they would at a real airport, and careful readers will enjoy discovering how the stories intertwine in clever and revealing ways.
You Are Here was edited by We Need Diverse Books co-founder Ellen Oh, and it’s the first release from Allida, a new imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books led by author Linda Sue Park and editor Anne Hoppe; both Oh and Park also contribute stories to the volume. In the book’s back matter, biographies of each author indicate who wrote which story and what contributors like Grace Lin, Minh Le and Erin Entrada Kelly have in common with their characters.
You Are Here vividly illustrates the talents of a diverse group of creators as well as the rich and varied range of Asian American experiences and identities.