Local Graphic Novelist Wins National Literary Honor


By Public Affairs, UC Berkeley News


In a first, a graphic novelist has been picked as the new national ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and the honor is going to a UC Berkeley graduate in computer science, Gene Leun Yang.


Now in his 40s, Yang grew up in the Bay Area, the son of immigrants from Taiwan and Hong Kong who met at San Jose State.


According to news articles about his selection, he started writing comic books when he was in fifth grade and began self-publishing them some 20 years ago. Themes of cross-culturalism showed up early in his work, and resulted in 2006 in “American Born Chinese,” which according to the Washington Post explores multiple identities, is widely read in classrooms and was a National Book Award finalist.


Yang majored in computer science at Berkeley, and told the Post he had planned a career in computers. But after a short while working in the field, he realized he was meant to be a teacher.


He taught computing, art and math at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland for 17 years before finally going fulltime with his writing recently.


The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader will inaugurate Yang on Thursday in Washington.


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