Author Gene Yang addresses high school and middle school students
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Students were shuffled into the auditorium during the last block of the day on Thursday to listen to Gene Luen Yang, author of 9th and 10th grade summer reading book, American Born Chinese. The high schoolers were joined by a group of 7th and 8th grade students from the nearby Runkle School.
After an introduction by a student presenter, a very relaxed and composed Yang took the stage. Yang jumped right into his story, describing himself as the “son of immigrants” who was raised in a house “full of stories”. Yang talked about how much he loved to draw as young child and how he idolized Walt Disney. Yang described in detail the time when he received his first Superman comic book, which he said changed his life and made him realize he wanted to be a comic.
Yang then went on to chronicle his life as a childhood comic who would create and sell comic books with his best friend starting in the 5th grade. Yang joked that he stopped because he realized that he wouldn’t get a girlfriend selling comic books, which got a few laughs out of the audience. Yang then described his professional life as a comic, first publishing in 1996 a book called Gordon Yamamoto And The King Of The Geeks. Throughout the presentation, Yang often referred back to his parents and how they didn’t always approve of his line of work in the comic industry, especially after he got off to a slow start.
Yang then went on to describe what it was like to publish books, joking that in his early days the money that he would get could only buy him a fancy dinner out. Yang then talked about his more recent and successful works such as, The Secret Coders, The Shadow Hero and most notably, American Born Chinese, which is set to become a core book at Brookline High in the coming years. Most recently Yang shared that he was working on the Avatar and Superman comics which he said were some of his proudest achievements.
Yang began to wrap up his presentation with how much his father, who for a long time did not approve of his work, became proud of him. Yang also talked about the awards that he had recently won such as being invited to the Library of Congress to be presented as an Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Yang ended his presentation talking about how when he writes comic books he always tries to represent minorities so that young immigrant kids can have characters in books that they can relate to because he did not have that opportunity as a young child.