Gene Luen Yang, creator of the boundary-breaking graphic novel American Born Chinese, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Printz Award, has been named the fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, succeeding Kate DiCamillo. Appointed by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, Yang’s term will begin with his inauguration on January 7, 2016, and last for two years. As ambassador, he will travel the country promoting the importance of literature for children and teens as a cornerstone for lifelong literacy, speaking to audiences of young people, parents, teachers, and librarians—anyone who has a stake in the betterment of children’s lives through books.
Yang has named his platform “Reading Without Walls,” explaining in a press release that “reading breaks down the walls that divide us. By reading, we get to know people outside of our own communities. We gain knowledge others don’t expect us to have. We discover new and surprising passions. Reading is critical to our growth, both as individuals and as a society.”
A passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in books for young people, Yang used his own experience growing up Chinese-American to shine a light on what it means to have a foot in two cultures in American Born Chinese, and he plumbed cultural and political history for his two-volume Boxers & Saints, also a National Book Award finalist, about the Boxer Rebellion, in turn-of-the-20th-century China. He has capitalized on his experience as a teacher of computer science to launch, along with artist Mike Holmes, Secret Coders, a series for middle graders that integrates coding principles into the storyline.