Library of Congress Appoints Graphic Novelist Gene Luen Yang as Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

January 5, 2016

Gene Luen YangThe Library of Congress, Children’s Book Council, and Every Child a Reader named Gene Luen Yang as its new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature on Monday. Yang will be the first graphic novelist to hold the post since its creation in 2008.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to be appointed,” Yang said in a statement released by the Library of Congress. “Reading breaks down the walls that divide us. By reading, we get to know people outside our own communities. We gain knowledge others don’t expect us to have. We discover new and surprising passions. Reading is critical to our growth, both as individuals and as a society.”

This is also excellent news for the graphic novel genre, Yang told the New York Times: “When I was coming up in the ‘90s, the comic book industry and the book industry were largely separate—they had their own awards, distribution systems and stores. These worlds are really converging in interesting ways.”

Like previous ambassadors, Yang will serve a two-year term and promote programs and events that aim to excite young readers about literature, such as his own platform, “Reading Without Walls.”

Yang’s books include American Born Chinese (2006), about a boy who has trouble fitting in at his new school (which was a National Book Award finalist, winner of the American Library Association’s Printz Award, and winner of the 2007 Eisner Award); Boxers and Saints (2013), a work of historical fiction; and Secret Coders (2015), an intro to computer coding-cum-work of fiction about students solving mysteries at a school. Over the summer, Yang began working on Superman for DC Comics.

Yang attended the University of California, Berkley, where he majored in computer science and minored in creative writing. He worked as a computer engineer for two years after graduating before teaching computer science at a high school for seventeen years. He’s since given up teaching to support his books.

Secret Coders, Yang told the Times, was inspired by his career. “What I wanted to do was combine a narrative with lessons. You ought to be able to do basic programming from reading the first volume.” Yang is running an art contest related to the book to encourage readers to try programming.

The inaugural ceremony will take place on Thursday, January 7 at 11 a.m. in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building. The event is open to the public.


Photo Credit: First Second Books.

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