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Author and Illustrator Gene Luen Yang on the Impact of Dr. Seuss and Superheroes

Author and Illustrator Gene Luen Yang remembers vividly the “birthday bird” from one of Dr. Suess’s books who told the main character that in addition to all the presents and cake he receives on his birthday, he should be grateful he wasn’t “a wasn’t”—someone who did not exist. That bit of existential terror stuck with the author. Superheroes like Peter Parker, who had a tough civilian life but who could still be heroic, and Superman, the ultimate immigrant who has to navigate between two cultures, also made a big impact on Mr. Yang as a child and still as an adult.

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Gene Luen Yang

Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Nonfiction, Graphic Novels

Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. American Born Chinese  — a memoir about growing up as an Asian American — became the first graphic novel to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award and a National Book Award finalist. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints  won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award finalist. His other works include Dragon Hoops , the Secret Coders series  (with Mike Holmes), The Shadow Hero  (with Sonny Liew), New Super-Man from DC Comics (with various artists), and the Avatar: The Last Airbender  series from Dark Horse Comics (with Gurihiru) and Superman Smashes the Klan (with Gurihiru).

In 2016, Yang was named the 5th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and selected as a MacArthur Fellow.