Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition – An Interview with Lyla Lee, Author of the Mindy Kim Series; On the Inspiration Behind Mindy Kim and Writing Korean Culture

Our Friend is Here: Asian Heritage Month Edition. Author interview with Lyla Lee, author of the Mindy Kim series; on the inspiration behind mindy kim and writing in korean culture. illustration of xiaolong the axolotl, her arms out wide as if she is showing off something, with lyla lee as a pink corgi, standing on her hindlegs, and holding a book.

Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)

When I read middle grade and young adult literature, something that I’m always on the look out for – and that I’m reflecting on – is the sort of books that I want to give to the young children in my life one day. Whether it is my own or family or children of friends, I often find myself asking: ‘what books do I want the young children in my life to grow up with, what books do I think they will find interesting, and what books do I want to shape them into empowered and thoughtful people?’

When I read Lyla Lee’s Mindy Kim series, I knew immediately: I’m going to give the younger children in my life the Mindy Kim series one day.

I had the pleasure of reading both Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business and Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade and I adored it! These chapter books are an absolute delight and such a balm for the soul. If you haven’t heard of these books, then I’m so excited that you will get to learn more about them today!

Lyla Lee as a pink corgi, standing on her hindlegs, and holding up a book and waving hello.

It is with the utmost pleasure that I have Lyla herself visiting us at the Pond today! I have had the joy of following Lyla before she was published, and it’s been – well, the joy I feel for her, that she’s worked so hard, been a writer for so many years, to now see her hard work and dedication come to fruition? Indescribable!

Lyla joins us at the Pond today as a pink corgi holding a book! I was thrilled to draw Lyla as a corgi – she’s been an ardent supporter of my corgi art for the longest time, so I’m so happy that she is visiting us at the Pond today and gets to join the ‘corgi family’! But before we talk to Lyla today, allow me to formally introduce you all to the Mindy Kim series!


The Mindy Kim series by Lyla Lee

The four book covers of the Mindy Kim series. From left to right: Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business; Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade; Mindy Kim and the Birthday Puppy; and Mindy Kim, Class President.

Blurb for Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business:

Mindy Kim just wants three things:
1. A puppy!
2. To fit in at her new school
3. For her dad to be happy again

But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. On her first day of school, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed isn’t exactly popular at the lunch table. Luckily, her new friend, Sally, makes the snacks seem totally delicious to Mindy’s new classmates, so they decide to start the Yummy Seaweed Business to try and raise money for that puppy!

When another student decides to try and sabotage their business, Mindy loses more than she bargained for—and wonders if she’ll ever fit in. Will Mindy be able to overcome her uncertainty and find the courage to be herself?

If you have any little ones in your life who life or if you, no matter how old you are, are looking for a story that’s soft, sweet, and has precious moments that may make you tear up – like it did for me! – then I cannot recommend Mindy Kim enough. These books are simple in its story (which makes it wonderful), teaches great lessons about honesty, friendship and change, and are filled with beautiful illustrations by illustrator, Dung Ho! (I mean, look at them!)


Author Interview: Lyla Lee

Xiaolong: Hi Lyla! A very warm welcome to The Quiet Pond – we’re so happy to have you visiting us for the first time! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Lyla Lee as a pink corgi, standing on her hindlegs, and holding up a book and waving hello.

Lyla: Hi! I’m Lyla. I’m the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (coming out 6/16 from Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although I was born in a small town in South Korea, I’ve since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by my English teacher, I started writing my own stories in fourth grade and finished my first novel when I was fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, I now live in Dallas, Texas. When I’m not writing, I’m teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

Xiaolong: Your middle grade series about a Korean girl named Mindy Kim is such a delightful and wholesome read. For those who may not be familiar with it, can you tell us a little bit about the Mindy Kim series?

Lyla: Thank you! Mindy Kim can be best described as Junie B. Jones meets Fresh Off the Boat. It’s a slice of life, middle grade contemporary chapter book series about Mindy, a Korean American second grader who moves from CA to FL. Unlike in her school in CA, there aren’t any kids who look like her in her new school in FL and she experiences a bit of a culture shock. But she still tries her best to make the most of her situation and goes on various fun adventures to make new friends.

Xiaolong: You have said that the first book of the Mindy Kim series, Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business, is loosely based on your life when you were young. Can you tell us how your experiences as a child inspired Mindy Kim?

Amazon.com: Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business (1 ...

Lyla: In third grade, I also moved from California to Florida. I was the new kid and didn’t have any friends. I was also one of the only Asian kids in the school and got bullied for being Asian. Thankfully, by the end of the school year, I was friends with a lot of the kids in that school and even the ones who bullied me in those first few days. And just like Mindy does in the book, a friend and I started a seaweed business. Unlike Mindy, ours was a bit more modest and no one got in trouble. 😂

Xiaolong: One of my favourite parts of the Mindy Kim series is the relationships, especially Mindy’s relationship with her appa. What was your thought process when writing about Mindy’s family?

Lyla: Mindy’s relationship with her dad is one of my favorite parts of the books, as well! When I set out to write the books, I really wanted to offer a positive and authentic representation of a Korean American family that is also not traditionally nuclear. Although I am fortunate enough to still have my parents, my family went through a lot of grief and loss when I was growing up, so I also wanted to tackle important issues like grief from a kid’s perspective.

Xiaolong: Something that I love about Mindy Kim is that it celebrates Korean culture, especially in Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade. What does it mean to you to write your culture into your stories?

Lyla: Celebrating Korean culture is definitely a big priority for me in writing these books. It’s a way for me to not only share my culture with others who may not be familiar with it but also a way to reconnect myself and other Korean Americans out there with our cultural traditions. Even though I grew up deeply embedded in Korean culture, no Korean family is identical. I still had to do some research about certain traditions and customs that my family didn’t follow. On a more literary level, I grew up reading little or no stories about Korean culture. While I was working on the Mindy Kim books, I really hoped more Korean kids all over the world would be able to see themselves in books.

Xiaolong: Thank you so much for visiting us today, Lyla! For a last question, and just for fun, what is a food that feels like ‘home’ to you, wherever that may be?

Lyla: I’d have to say my grandmother’s cucumber kimchi. My grandma is a fantastic cook, and she knows how to make a lot of side dishes and entrees. She has her own special recipe for everything, even kimchi! And it’s so special that no one else, not even my own mom (who is also a great cook) can replicate. I used to have my grandma’s cucumber kimchi every summer I visited Korea as a kid and I still do whenever I visit Korea today. Just one bite is enough to remind me of my fondest childhood memories.


About the Author

Lyla Lee

Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

Find Lyla on: Website | Twitter| Goodreads | Simon and Schuster


ourfriend XL

What a wholesome interview! I loved having Lyla on the blog today to talk about her Mindy Kim series for Asian Heritage Month – and I hope you all will give Mindy Kim a go! Once again, it is utterly delightful and the perfect gentle read.

And of course, if you’re interested in Lyla’s other work, her YA debut, I’ll Be The One, releases on June 16th! I’m really excited to read I’ll Be The One – I have a feeling that it’s going to be a good one.

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