Vicky Smith: I Read Asian and Pacific Islander American Books

Yoon Ha Lee is an award winning Korean American author most known to adult readers for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction writing. Dragon Pearl (Rick Riordan Presents, 2019) was his first venture into youth literature. On his website, Lee describes the book 0027-sm-300x200.jpgas “a middle grade Korean mythology space opera: the heroine is Min, a fox spirit who runs away from her impoverished planet to solve the mystery of her missing brother.  Along the way, she’ll encounter space pirates, a sinister tiger spirit captain, ghosts, and more–perhaps even the legendary Dragon Pearl with its ability to terraform worlds.” In an interview with Kirkus, Lee told readers, ““I really hope that people who read this book are inspired to see what else is out there because the diversity in voices, from disabled characters to characters with different body types, different sexualities, ethnicities, religions—it’s really reassuring.”

His next book,  Phoenix Extravagant (Solaris Books, Oct 2020) is written for adults and is due in October. “It’s about a nonbinary painter teaming up with a pacifist mecha dragon against an evil empire (as one does), and it takes place in a magical version of Korea during the Japanese occupation.” I think there may be some crossover appeal to young adults!

“Lee has created an adrenaline-filled space opera with mythological creatures living alongside humans. It is refreshing to see both Korean elements and a nonbinary character seamlessly integrated into the storyline. A high-octane, download-1.jpgscience-fiction thriller painted with a Korean brush and a brilliant example of how different cultures can have unique but accessible cosmology and universal appeal.”— Kirkus Reviews. starred 

“Lee skillfully weaves Korean folklore into this space opera narrative, creating dynamic and relatable characters. VERDICT With ghosts, pirates, and a rollicking space adventure, there’s a little something for everyone here.”— School Library Journal, starred 

“Lee offers a perfect balance of space opera and Korean mythology with enough complexity to appeal to teens.”— Publishers Weekly, starred

Vicky Smith is the children’s editor at Kirkus Reviews; she works from her home office in Maine.