GENE LUEN YANG
Gene Luen Yang was born in California and began publishing comments under the name Humble Comics in 1996. He received the Xeric Grant for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks. But it was in 2006 that Yang came to national prominence. American Born Chinese, released by First Second Books in 2006, became the first graphic novel to be a finalist for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – New. The Eternal Smile, a collaborative project with Derek Kirk Kim in 2009, won an Eisner as well. Dark Horse Comics is currently publishing a comics continuation of Nickelodeon’s popular Avatar: The Last Airbender, with art by Gurihiru and story by Mike DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Yang. In September of 2013, First Second Books released his two-volume graphic novel project Boxers & Saints, which was again a finalist for the National Book Award. He teaches at Hamline University as part of their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Boxers & Saints
Boxers & Saints tells not just one story, but multiple stories, surrounding the events of the Boxer Rebellion in China in the late 1890s. Significantly, the first volume, Boxers, tells the story from the perspective of Little Bao, a village peasant boy who joins with the Boxers, a violent, mystically inspired group dedicated to eliminating foreign influence in China. The second volume, Saints, shifts the narrative’s perspective and tells a parallel story of Vibiana, a Chinese girl of roughly the same age, who has been raised in a family that converted to Roman Catholicism. Though the lives of the two central characters directly intersect only briefly, the lives of both are dramatically impacted by the events that they both witness and participate in. As a graphic novel—or comic, as Yang prefers—the story’s power is generated both the visual and the textual. It seeks to explore the tensions inherent in religious belief and tradition, race and colonialism, economic and political power, family loyalty and personal integrity.