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Biography Gene Luen Yang

2016-2017 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

2016-17 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang with acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao and founding director of the Center for the Book John Y. Cole. Photo credit: Shawn Miller, Library of Congress.
Gene Luen Yang, 2016-2017 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, was the fifth writer to hold this position. During his two-year term as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang traveled across American to promote his platform, “READING WITHOUT WALLS,” showing kids and teens that reading is a vital part of their lives and speaking to parents, teachers, librarians—everyone invested in young people’s literacy—about how better to connect with kids and teens and help them love reading.

Gene Luen Yang was born and raised in California, and is the son of Chinese immigrants. Yang began drawing comics and graphic novels in the fifth grade, and first found success as a cartoonist in 1997, when he received a grant for his self-published Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks. During this time, Yang received a master’s degree in education from California State University, East Bay and began teaching computer science at a high school school in San Francisco. Yang was a 2018-19 Chubb Fellow at Yale University, is the recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and is on the faculty at Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN for its Master of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Yang’s first graphic novel, American Born Chinese, is the first graphic novel to be named a finalist for the National Book Award and the first graphic novel to win the American Library Association’s 2007 Printz Award for the Best Young Adult Book. Yang is a three-time Eisner Award winner, one of the most prestigious honors in the comics industry.

Yang is also well known for his 2013 two-volume graphic novel, Boxers & Saints, the story of two children living during the Boxer Rebellion in China. The novel won the 2014 L.A. Times Book Prize for Young Readers and was a National Book Award finalist in 2013. Yang’s popular graphic novel series for middle-graders, Secret Coders, teaches young people about computer programming. His most recent graphic novel, Dragon Hoops, was released in March 2020. Gene lives with his family in California.

Yang is preceded as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by Jon Scieszka (2008–9), Katherine Paterson (2010–11), Walter Dean Myers (2012–13), and Kate DiCamillo (2014–15).

Selected Works at the Library of Congress