About a month ago, the first teaser for the upcoming live-action Disney movie for Mulan came out. It naturally set off heated discussions on whether to laud it, hate it, or just be vaguely wary of it. I’m not getting into all of that here, except to say that I’m excited for the movie, but ultimately will always be disappointed that the directors and script writers were not Chinese, much less Asian or Asian American, to my knowledge. (Correct me if I’m wrong — I’d love to be wrong.) Hollywood — and the publishing industry — need to get past Representation 101 and realize that the people working behind-the-scenes are just as crucial as the faces on screen.
Now that I’ve said my piece, let’s get into why we’re really here: Mulan, but in YA lit form. One book exploring Mulan in the Disney-verse came out last year in 2018…
Reflection by Elizabeth Lim, Disney Storybook Art Team
What if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld? When Captain Shang is mortally wounded by Shan Yu in battle, Mulan must travel to the Underworld, Diyu, in order to save him from certain death. But King Yama, the ruler of Diyu, is not willing to give Shang up easily. With the help of Shang’s great lion guardian ShiShi, Mulan must traverse Diyu to find Shang’s spirit, face harrowing obstacles, and leave by sunrise—or become King Yama’s prisoner forever. Moreover, Mulan is still disguised as the soldier called Ping, wrestling with the decision to reveal her true identity to her closest friend. Will Mulan be able to save Shang before it’s too late? Will he ever be able to trust her again? Or will she lose him–and be lost in the Underworld—forever?
And in September, a different non-Disney Mulan book will make its debut:
The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
CHINA, 484 A.D.
A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.
Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.
A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling–the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.