Gene Luen Yang
National Ambassador of Young People's Literature, Graphic Novelist


Gene Luen Yang was named the next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress in early 2016. He is the first writer who works primarily in graphic novels to be named ambassador. During his two year tenure, Yang will also promote Reading Without Walls, a platform he developed with the Children’s Book Council and his publisher, First Second, that aims to excite young people about reading outside their comfort zones. In September 2016, he was awarded a fellowship with the MacArthur Foundation and the accompanying prestigious “genius” grant.

 

Gene Luen Yang began drawing comics in the fifth grade. His rise to prominence as a cartoonist began in 1997, when he received the Xeric grant for self-publishing for his Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks.  After putting out several issues on his own, it was picked up by the independent comics publisher Slave Labor, who published it and Loyola Chin and the San Pelegran Order (later collected into a single volume as Animal Crackers).  While working on these comics, Yang received his Master’s degree in education from Cal State East Bay and began teaching at a San Francisco school.  He is a founding member of the Bay Area’s Art Night Crew, a local group of cartoonists.

 

American Born Chinese, Yang’s first graphic novel with the then-fledgling publisher First Second, put him on the map in the bookstore and the library market, where it was one of the leading graphic novels to make a real impact.  American Born Chinese, the story of a teenager struggling with his identity, was the first-ever graphic novel ever to be named a finalist for the National Book Award, causing a firestorm of controversy about whether graphic novels were eligible for the award, and whether they were “real books.”  The book went on to win the Printz Award, the ALA’s award for the best young adult book published that year.  It is the only graphic novel to ever receive the Printz.  The book also received an Eisner Award, one of the most prestigious honors in the comic book world, for best graphic album. To date, it has sold around 400,000 copies, and it is taught in high schools and colleges around the country.

 

Yang’s next solo graphic novel, the groundbreaking diptych Boxers & Saints, was also a National Book Award finalist.  This book is the story of China’s Boxer Rebellion, told from alternate perspectives – a young man who joined the Boxers, and a young woman who as a Chinese Catholic, is persecuted by them.  The book went on to receive the Printz Honor and the LA Times Book Prize for Young Readers.

 

Currently, Gene is writing the graphic novel series Secret Coders, illustrated by Mike Holmes.  This middle-grade series takes Yang’s background in education and as a teacher of computer science and combines that knowledge with comics storytelling, using the narrative to teach kids about computer programming.  He is a strong proponent of using comics in education, and of representing diversity through the comics medium, which he does in all of his comics work. Yang and Holmes were selected by the editors of Foreign Policy as two of the Top 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015.

 

A strong believer in collaboration, Yang has published books in partnership with esteemed cartoonists Derek Kirk Kim (The Eternal Smile, Duncan’s Kingdom), Thien Pham (Level Up), and Sonny Liew (The Shadow Hero).  Yang’s work has also been included in the anthologies Up All NightSecret IdentitiesStrange TalesNursery Rhyme ComicsShatteredOpen Mic, andComic Squad: Recess. After speaking out against the lack of diversity in the casting of the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie, Yang was asked to write the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics, which he does to this day, as well as writing Superman (with John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Howard Porter) for DC Comics.

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Paperback
Secret Coders: Paths & PortalsSecret Coders (Volume 2)
First Second

There's something lurking beneath the surface of Stately Academy—literally. In a secret underground classroom Hopper, Eni, and Josh discover that the campus was once home to the Bee School, an institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper and her friends are eager to follow in this tradition and become top-rate coders. But why are Principal Dean and the rugby team suddenly so interested in their extracurricular activities?

Paperback
Secret CodersSecret Coders (Volume 1)
First Second

From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!

Paperback
First Second

Jin Wang starts at a new school where he's the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn't want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he's in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee's annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny's reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He's ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there's no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They're going to have to find a way—if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.

Paperback
BoxersBoxers & Saints: Volume 1
First Second

Boxers & Saints is a groundbreaking graphic novel in two volumes. This innovative format presents two parallel tales about young people caught up on opposite sides of a violent rift. Saints tells Vibiana's story, and the companion volume, Boxers, tells the story of Little Bao, a young man who joins the Boxer Rebellion. American Born Chinese author Gene Luen Yang brings his trademark magical realism to the complexities of the Boxer Rebellion, and lays bare the universal foundations of extremism, rebellion, and faith.

Paperback
SaintsBoxers & Saints: Volume 2
First Second

Boxers & Saints is a groundbreaking graphic novel in two volumes. This innovative format presents two parallel tales about young people caught up on opposite sides of a violent rift. Saints tells Vibiana's story, and the companion volume, Boxers, tells the story of Little Bao, a young man who joins the Boxer Rebellion. American Born Chinese author Gene Luen Yang brings his trademark magical realism to the complexities of the Boxer Rebellion, and lays bare the universal foundations of extremism, rebellion, and faith.

Paperback
First Second

Partnered with the deceptively simple, cute art of newcomer Thien Pham, Gene Yang has returned to the subject he revolutionized with American Born Chinese. Whimsical and serious by turns, Level Up is a new look at the tale that Yang has made his own: coming of age as an Asian American.

Paperback
The Eternal SmileThree Stories
First Second

With vivid artwork and moving writing, Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim test the boundaries between fantasy and reality, exploring the ways that the world of the imagination can affect real life.

Paperback
First Second

In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

Gene Luen Yang is available for lectures, school visits, library talks, workshops, and conferences.

How Comics Leads to Harmony Through the lens of his personal journey with comics, Gene explains how we came to see a division between words and pictures and how comics teach us to bridge that gap.

We Need Diverse Books From identifying trailblazers in the literary scene and comics world to outlining his own role in writing books, Gene emphasizes the importance of narratives that convey a multitude of cultural experiences.

STEM Education Gene discusses the importance of STEM education and the artificial divisions put up between "left brain" and "right brain" activities.

The Asian American Experience How does one create an identity in America while retaining one's roots? Gene tells his story.

Comics in Education The educational potential of comics has yet to be fully realized. While other media such as film, theater, and music have found their place within the American educational establishment, comics has not. Gene explores the history and strengths of comics in education.

Making Comics and Graphic Novels Gene examines the balance between textual and visual narratives when creating comics and graphic novels.





Learn more about the MacArthur Fellowship and Gene’s “genius” grant.

Check out The Washington Posts coverage of Gene’s MacArthur Fellowship award.

The New York Times covers Gene’s appointment as the Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

The Washington Post talks about Gene’s career and life.

Learn more about Gene in Bustle’s “9 Things You Need to Know” profile.

NBC News covers Gene’s graphic novels as “windows to life”

Read Gene’s powerful essay for NBC: “There Is No One Way to Be an American – Or a Superhero.”

Follow a conversation with Gene and Marvel writer Greg Pak about young Asian-American superheroes at Inverse.

Learn more about Gene on his personal website and follow him on Twitter.

“Gene was phenomenal, and we were so fortunate to have him; so many attendees had something positive to say about his presentation, his books, and his inspiring words, that we couldn't have asked for a better keynote. I am truly grateful to have worked with him, and with the Macmillan team, on this event, so thank you!”
- Donna Matturri, Pickerington Public Library

"Wonderful! Gene is an amazing speaker. He's brilliant and funny, thoughtful and personable."
- Indiana University Bloomington

Praise for American Born Chinese:

“Gene Luen Yang has created that rare article: a youthful tale with something new to say about American youth.”
New York Times Book Review

“Like Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Laurence Yep's Dragonwings, this novel explores the impact of the American dream on those outside the dominant culture in a finely wrought story that is an effective combination of humor and drama.”
School Library Journal, Starred Review

“. . . brilliantly written and designed, sophisticated and wise.”
The Miami Herald

“. . . one of the most powerful and entertaining works of literature to be published this year . . .”
The San Francisco Chronicle



Praise for Boxers & Saints:

“Read this, and come away shaking.”
—Newbery Honor-winning author Gary Schmidt

“Masterful.”
—Dave Eggers

“Remarkable.”
The New York Times

“At once humorous and heartbreaking.”
The Los Angeles Times

“Epic.”
The Washington Post