GENE LUEN YANG: American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints, and Being an Auteur (MF GALAXY 009)

Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent LA Times Book Prize-winner Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese. 

Yang is a remarkable force in the world of American comics. He’s the first comic creator to be nominated for the US National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award.

He’s also the writer of the graphic novel sequels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Somehow while he’s changing the face of American comics, Yang finds the time to teach high school computer science and graduate-level creative writing.

In part two of our conversation, Yang discusses:

  • how and why he joined three previously unrelated stories together to create his career-defining graphic novel American Born Chinese
  • how story and structure drove each other in American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints
  • the anti-colonial movement featured in Boxers & Saints, a militia of traditional Chinese fighters called the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists that the British occupiers blandly described as the “Boxer Rebellion,” since they didn’t know the terms wushu or kung-fu
  • why the Saints volume is so much larger than the Boxers volume, and why his publisher scuttled his plans to publish the Saints volume on deliberately inferior production materials
  • how he created the Saints protagonist Four-Girl, cruelly rejected by her own family and one of Yang’s few female protagonists, who is in fact partly based on one of his own relatives
  • the difference between being auteur on his own properties and the writer who has to explain everything for an artist, including the Japanese female art team Gurihiru that illustrates his Avatar scripts
  • how difficult it is to earn a living through comics, and why he hasn’t yet crowdfunded his work, and
  • his favourite Asian, African, and Indigenous American graphic novelists and writers

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