On Saturday, Gene Luen Yang visited The Escapist, a local comic book store in the Bay Area. This was a treat not only because of seeing a successful comic creator visiting his hometown, but also because of his new appointment as Ambassador of Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader. How cool is that?!
Mr. Yang is a veteran of the graphic novel industry and his experience shown throughout the talk. He spoke about how he got into the business and how one would go about it if they were so inclined to be a comic writer/artist. His honesty about getting into the business of comics was both sobering and funny. From his story of having his friend’s mom xerox copies of their comics to sell to their fifth-grade friends to current cost estimates of different methods of self-publishing, Mr. Yang told it all.
Just when I had the courage to raise my hand to ask a question, luckily the owner of The Escapist asked about his newly appointed role as Ambassador of Young People’s Literature (which was all well and good because that was what I was going to ask.) As an Ambassador, he can work on a platform that he can promote for young readers. For those who know his work, his platform Reading Without Walls should come as no surprise. His platform has 3 goals: for children to read outside their comfort zone, to read about different kinds of people with different life experiences and to read different book formats (graphic novel to prose for example).
As a Filipino, seeing an Asian-American successfully enter the graphic novel industry and to be in such an influential position as an ambassador for reading is inspiring. The audience in the very crowded comic store reflected his impact in the community: grandparents, children (who came all the way from Sacramento, no less!), teenagers, white, people of color, the cute 1-year-old girl next to me…it’s a nice visual to see the power of literature (all types of literature) impact all age groups from all backgrounds. I can’t wait to see what Gene Yuen Lang does from here.