Meet Gene Luen Yang, the 5th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!
Yang will travel nationwide over the course of his two-year term speaking to kids, teens, and their caregivers about his platform, “Reading Without Walls,” focusing on breaking down barriers to reading, championing diversity in all forms, and engaging non-readers.
“Gene Yang is a talented writer. He is a brilliant artist. His stories are thought-provoking, genre-bending, utterly original examinations of the human heart. In short, Gene Yang is a Renaissance man. I am so honored to pass the torch of this sacred task to Gene. No one is better suited for bringing us all together”
— Kate DiCamillo, two-time Newbery Award winner and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Emeritus
5 Questions With Gene
Your platform as National Ambassador is “Reading Without Walls.” Could you tell us what that means to you?
Reading takes us outside our walls. By reading, we get to know people who look and think and live differently than we do. We gain knowledge and skills others don’t expect from us. We discover passions we never knew we had.
Reading Without Walls means being open to new kinds of stories. It means reading books that others might not expect us to like, that we ourselves might not expect to like. It means reading books with covers that show characters who don’t look like us. It means reading books in formats that may be unfamiliar.
Even now, I’m a slow reader. My mind tends to wander a lot, so for the first several pages of any book, no matter how beautifully written or illustrated, I have to force myself to pay attention. What I’ve learned though, is that once I’m in, I’m in. With a good book, the effort I put in at the beginning pays off a thousand-fold.
Maybe a kid only reads stories about kids who look like her, who live the way she lives. I want her to read a book about someone different.
Maybe a kid only reads graphic novels. I want her to try reading a prose novel, a hybrid-format novel, or a novel in verse.
What are some of the top changes you’d like to see in how books for young people are talked about in this country?
What are you are most looking forward to during your time as National Ambassador?
About Gene Luen Yang
In 2013,Boxers & Saints (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/First Second Books), his two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, was a National Book Award finalist and won the L.A. Times Book Prize. Gene has also won an Eisner for The Eternal Smile, a collaboration with Derek Kirk Kim. He is the author of the Secret Coders series (with artist Mike Holmes) and has written for the hit comics Avatar: The Last Airbender and Superman. Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at geneyang.com.
5 Things You Might Not Know About Gene!
“Now that I’ve fulfilled my dream of becoming a cartoonist, I dream of brewing root beer.”
“I love Uncle Scrooge comics.”
“I had to get two stitches in my head when I was in first grade. (I’m still sad about what my SAT score could have been.)”
“My wife and I have four kids. (Our house is very, very noisy.)”
“I was once told by a doctor that I have an extra vertebrae. (I never got this confirmed by another doctor, so I’m not positive it’s true.)”