Bay Area man named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

(KTVU) -- A South Bay man who taught high school by day and creates graphic novels by night is now being recognized by the Library of Congress for his work.

With each stroke of a pencil, Gene Luen Yang brings to life comic book characters and plots ...often a reflection of his experience as a Chinese American growing up in the South Bay.

"From when I was a kid, I dreamed of telling stories through drawings and that's exactly what comics is," said Yang, a graphic novelist.

He says he majored in computer science at UC Berkeley to please his father but minored in creative writing.
"I would make comics at night and teach computers during the day," said Yang.

He taught at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland for 17 years .
Every couple of months, he'd received an envelope from his father in the mail.

"It would be want ads from Apple or Google. There would be articles comparing what teachers make and what programmers make," said Yang.

The 42 year old g read superman comic books as a child. .

He says there are parallels between being a child of immigrant parents and the dual identities of superheroes.

"I grew up with two names. I had one name at home ...another one at school. Two different sets of cultural expectations and that blending of identities that superheroes go through just mirrored my life when I was a kid." said Yang.

On Thursday, the Library of Congress will officially appoint Yang as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

He will be the first graphic novelist to hold that position...the youngest and the first Asian American.

During his two year term, Yang will be visiting schools across the country to promote reading...on a platform called "Reading Without Walls."

"Which really means exploring the world through reading...kids...everybody to read outside their comfort zone.
If you've never read a graphic novel, I'm hoping that you'll try. And if you only read graphic novels, I'm hoping you'll give prose novels a try,"

Yang left his job teaching at Bishop O'Dowd in June.

But his next book will be about the school's boys' basketball team.

He says his ultimate goal is to get back into the classroom to teach again one day.

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