Big News: Gene Luen Yang Named MacArthur Fellow
Gene Luen Yang, the currently serving National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has just been named a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. The fellowships, commonly referred to as “genius grants,” come with a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000, paid out over five years.
While Yang is not the first graphic novelist to be named a MacArthur Fellow—Ben Katchor was named a fellow in 2000 and Alison Bechdel got the nod in 2014*—he is the first MacArthur Fellow whose body of work consists primarily of graphic novels for children and young adults. His graphic novel American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to win a Printz Award and the first to be a finalist for the National Book Award. (Check out Eva’s conversation with First Second marketing director Gina Gagliano about the tenth anniversary of that book, and the reactions when it won those honors—we here at GC4K are on it!)
Yang didn’t stop there, though. His body of work is both broad and deep, including serious works such as Boxers and Saints, fun stuff like the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels and DC’s New Super-Man, and in-between pieces like The Shadow Hero, a lighthearted take on a Chinese-American superhero. His latest graphic novels are the Secret Coders series, which introduce the basics of computer coding through a fantasy story.
What’s Gene going to do with the money? Here’s what he told the LA Times:
This is what I think: I see myself as having three big roles. One, I’m a member of a family — I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m a son; two is, I am a cartoonist; and three is, I’m a teacher. And I want to put part of these resources to each of those things. I don’t think I’m going to build a palace, but it will at least help me send two of my kids to college. I want to hire an intern — there’s a [cartoonist] school out in Vermont that I’ve always been an admirer of. Having an intern would both help me professionally, and it would be a way of easing somebody into the comic book industry. As a teacher, my primary role as a teacher is as the National Ambassador for Young people’s Literature through the Library of Congress, and there are a number of different things we’ve been talking about for a while, but we weren’t sure where the resources to do those things would come from — and now I have access to resources. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do some of those things before my term ends at the end of 2017. So those are the three categories that I want to throw money at.
Here’s the official MacArthur Foundation video:
*And Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes Black Panther for Marvel, was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship last year, although it’s safe to say it probably wasn’t for his comics work.
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor, a newspaper reporter, and assistant to the mayor of a small city. In addition to editing GC4K, she is a regular columnist for SLJ, a contributing editor at ICv2, an editor at Smash Pages, and a writer for Publishers Weekly. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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