Laurence Yep grew up in an African-American neighborhood in San Francisco in the 1950s. His father worked long hours in their corner grocery store, often with the help of Laurence and his brother. Laurence bussed to a bilingual Jesuit school in Chinatown, even though his family did not speak Chinese at home. Growing up, Yep always felt that he was a cultural outsider- a theme and perspective that would appear throughout his books.
Laurence Yep’s writing career started early. At age 18 he published his first story in a science fiction magazine. At age 23 he published his first novel. While his college classmates were going to parties and lying out in the sun, Laurence Yep was either typing in his room or doing research in the library. By age 28, Yep had not only written a long Ph.D. dissertation on William Faulkner, he had also won a prestigious Newbery Honor Award. That award impacted the course of his career, allowing him to quit his itinerant teaching jobs to focus on writing.
As a testament to his popularity and longevity as a writer, Laurence Yep won a second Newbery Honor Award eighteen years later in 1994. Yep’s greatest challenge may be that he has more ideas than time. Whether it’s a character on the bus, pelicans on the beach, or an old history book at the library, Laurence Yep finds inspiration all around him- and then his imagination does the rest.