I got to meet Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints (just to name a some of his works) at the local bookstore in Austin, BookPeople. I had to read American Born Chinese for my Young Adult Materials class. It was brilliant. I loved the different perspectives within the book and all the layering that tied the book together in the end. I had never gotten into graphic novels before. Since reading American Born Chinese, I have picked up other graphic novels (like Anya’s Ghost, which I reviewed here, also amazing). BookPeople brings in quite a few authors to speak and sign their books. I have been to a few of these events and have always really enjoyed them. I like getting to hear about authors’ writing processes and what they’re currently working on.
Gene Yang’s presentation blew me away. He was engaging and fun to listen to. He has been one, if not the best author event I’ve gone to. Yang had a powerpoint to highlight part of the research he did for Boxers & Saints. I don’t know much about the history of the Boxer Rebellion, but he gave a brief history, including pictures. I liked that he also tied in the Boxer Rebellion to popular geek culture. It hit home the relevancy of this story on a different level. Besides talking about his research, he talked about his writing/drawing style. He showed pictures of his character sketches, which are used to maintain consistency throughout the novel. He draws everything on vellum first, which is transparent, so he can look at the mirror image of the images and notice any mistakes right away. He will then scan his images into the computer, print them out in non-photo-copy ink and ink them with a traditional chinese brush. Finally, he scans the inked drawings in to the computer and works with/sends them to Lark Pien to color them digitally.
I wasn’t planning on buying Boxers & Saints because the Austin Teen Book Festival is this Saturday (I am planning on spending a bit of money there on new books..Yay!) but his presentation made me care so much about the story of the Boxer Rebellion and the characters he created that I could not leave without the books. I was already excited to read these books, having heard all the buzz and that they are on the National Book Award Long List. Now I am even more excited to read them after having met Gene Yang. He might be on his way to becoming one of my favorite authors just from his wonderful presentation. It also didn’t hurt that he raved about how important librarians are to the book publishing industry and how awesome we are in general. 😉
Look for an upcoming review of Boxers & Saints and I’ll try to fix up my review from class of American Born Chinese to post on here as well.
Bonus: Check out the awesome pictures Gene Yang drew in everyone’s books!