Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature 2015-2016
National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang is the fifth writer to hold this position, which is co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council and the Every Child a Reader foundation. He was born and raised in California and is the son of Chinese immigrants.
Yang has been drawing comics since the fifth grade. He first found success in 1997, when he received a grant for his “Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Greeks,” which was eventually published by a comics company. During this time, Yang received a master’s in education from California State at Hayward and began teaching at a school in San Francisco.
His first graphic novel, “American Born Chinese,” was enormously successful and was the first graphic novel to be named a finalist for the National Book Award. The book is about a teenager struggling with his identity – a theme that is common in much of Yang’s work, which emphasizes the importance of celebrating our diverse culture.
“American Born Chinese” also won the Printz Award from the American Library Association for best young adult book published in 2007. “Boxers & Saints,” which comprises two companion graphic novels, was Yang’s next solo work, and it also was a National Book Award finalist.
Yang is currently writing the graphic novel series “Secret Coders,” which teaches young people about computer programming.
Yang is preceded as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by Jon Scieszka (2008-09), Katherine Paterson (2010-11), Walter Dean Myers (2012-13) and Kate DiCamillo (2014-15). His works can be found in the Library of Congress Young Readers Center in Room G-29 of the Thomas Jefferson Building.