The novel helped Asian American kids and teens see themselves as the protagonist in a fun love story, as opposed to being the sidekick or best friend.
For Han, creating an Asian American character that clicked with so many fans was transformative. “I’ve always been drawn to romantic stories, but I went most of my life without watching a romantic comedy with an Asian American woman as the lead,” the author wrote in an email to NBC News. She added that it was particularly important to have lighter stories featuring Asian Americans in addition to ones featuring historical or civil rights themes.
“When we champion diverse voices, but only allow writers and filmmakers and artists to make art about their other-ness, where their race or sexual orientation is the central plot point, it is still reinforcing that these stories aren’t ‘mainstream,’” said Han. “Lara Jean is Asian American, that’s essential to who she is. But the story could be about any teenage girl.”