Gene Luen Yang became the first graphic novelist nominated for a National Book Award in 2006 for “American Born Chinese,” a story about an Asian-American boy’s struggle to assimilate in San Francisco. Now he’s nominated again, for “Boxers and Saints,” a set of books about China’s Boxer Rebellion. The Oakland resident talks about his latest work and his quest to create a new Asian-American comic superhero.

Guests:
Gene Luen Yang, award-winning author and graphic artist of graphic novels including "American Born Chinese," "Boxers and Saints" and "Avatar: The Last Airbender"

  • Craig

    What is the connection if any between superhero literature, such as comic books and movies, and the epidemic of narcissism in our culture?

    For reference:

    • thucy

      The first Superhero was conceived not in “narcissism”, but in two Jewish artists’ attempt to make sense of their own assimilation process as Nazi power grew in Europe.
      So… Do we have an epidemic of narcissism in our culture, or do we have an epidemic of people using the term narcissism to describe anything vaguely out of the ordinary?
      Who knows, but I thought the recent “Superman: Red Son” wherein the alien baby Superman lands not in a corn field in the midwest but in a Ukrainian wheat field is a pretty funny conceit. Nice artwork, too.

      • Giarc

        What does it matter how superhero literature started? What matters is how it is used today to increase pathological behavior, although I think video games are a larger influence.

    • thucy

      The first Superhero was conceived not in “narcissism”, but in two Jewish artists’ attempt to make sense of their own assimilation process as Nazi power grew in Europe.
      So… Do we have an epidemic of narcissism in our culture, or do we have an epidemic of people using the term narcissism to describe anything vaguely out of the ordinary?
      Who knows, but I thought the recent “Superman: Red Son” wherein the alien baby Superman lands not in a corn field in the midwest but in a Ukrainian wheat field is a pretty funny conceit. Nice artwork, too.

    • thucy

      Forum staff,
      Just wondering why my reply to Craig’s comment is being withheld – it was safely within Forum guidelines. Thanks.

      • ForumProducer

        Hi Thucy,
        Not sure why your reply was withheld — the program automatically placed it in the pending folder. I’ll investigate. Sometimes it does this if a comment contains a link (it erroneously assumes it is spam).

        -Amanda

        • thucy

          Thanks, no worries. Really enjoying Yang’s thoughts on the appeal of Christianity to Chinese-Ams.

      • ForumProducer

        Thucy,

        Not sure why that comment was withheld but I re-published it at 10:10
        -Amanda

  • thucy

    Thanks to Forum, I started Orville Schell’s new book on China (misleadingly titled “Wealth and Power”, it’s more about those trying to reform it).
    I just read the chapter on Empress Dowager CiXi and her interaction with the Boxer rebellion. I’m thrilled that Yang’s bringing a comic book lens to the subject.
    I have two questions for Yang:

    1) how much (if at all) was his “ABC” book influenced by Will Eisner’s epic comic book “A Contract With God” trilogy dealing with Jewish immigrants/assimilation in the Bronx? Was Eisner’s late-life re-write of Dickens’ Jewish “Fagin” character an invitation to dive into historical fiction?

    2) Is Yang still Catholic, and if so, what’s his take on evangelical Christian faith within the Chinese-Am community? Is the radical message of Christ pulling the Chinese-Am community forward, or is it being used as it often is in other groups, or as Confucian philosophy was historically manipulated within China, as a means to hinder questioning the status quo?

    One thing that interests me is the profound sense of caution within Yang’s work. Japanese comic artists like Tatsumi were outrageously bold in tackling social themes. Ditto Will Eisner. The most successful writers in China are quite fierce (e.g. Mo Yan).

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