Young kids often have an incredible imagination that helps them create marvelous characters and stories inside their heads.
As we grow up, that free spirit seems to fade; but not for Gene Luen Yang. He never let his love of superheroes, animation and storytelling disappear; instead, he made it into a stellar career as a writer of graphic novels.
“Graphic novels are almost a container, that contains any kind of story you want to tell,” explained Yang.
Gene Luen Yang: Ambassador for young peopleGraphic novelist, Gene Yang talks about what inspired him to tell his cultural story.
Yang has written for iconic comic series, such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and Superman. He is considered one of the most respected writers in the industry. His first graphic novel, American Born Chinese, was the first-ever graphic novel to be named a finalist for the National Book Award, and was the only graphic novel, ever, to win the coveted Printz Award in 2007.
Adding to his lengthy list of “firsts,” Yang was recently named an Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. He’s the first graphic novelist to receive the honor.
An advocate for using comics and graphic novels as learning tools, he’s currently promoting his educational platform “Reading Without Walls,” which encourages kids to read outside of their comfort zone.
“Essentially, we want the kids to explore the world through books,” said Yang. “Exploration is such an important part of growing up, and a book is such a great way of exploring.”
Gene Luen Yang joined May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to talk about what inspired him to tell his cultural story.