Library of Congress names graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang (“Boxers and Saints”) as Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

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New York Times (by George Gene Gustines):

Gene Luen Yang often mines his life for his graphic novels. He has explored being a first-generation American, and harnessed his love of computer programming. Starting this week, he will have a whole new experience to draw on.

On Monday, the Library of Congress is to name Mr. Yang the national ambassador for young people’s literature, the first graphic novelist to be so honored since the post was created in 2008.

When I was coming up in the ’90s, the comic book industry and the book industry were largely separate — they had their own awards, distribution systems and stores,” Mr. Yang said in a telephone interview from his home in San Jose, Calif. But now, “these worlds are really converging in interesting ways.”

Mr. Yang’s stories leapfrog genres and often pose questions about acceptance, identity and culture. Perhaps his best-known graphic novel is “American Born Chinese,” about Jin Wang, a boy who has trouble fitting in when he moves to a new school in the suburbs. The New York Times greeted the book as “a dark exploration of Asian-American adolescence” that blends two cultures “in inventive, unexpected ways.”

An excerpt from Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel “American Born Chinese” (2006). CreditGene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese,” published by First Second in 2006, achieved a couple of firsts for a graphic novel: It was a finalist for a National Book Award and it won the Michael L. Printz Award. It also received an Eisner Award, one of the most prestigious honors in the comic book world, for best graphic album.

His other books include “Boxers and Saints” (2013), a work of historical fiction with dollops of mysticism set during the Boxer Rebellion in China; and “Secret Coders” (2015), illustrated by Mike Holmes, about students solving mysteries at an unsettling school. (The text slyly teaches readers basic computer coding.) In June Mr. Yang joined the group of writers working on Superman for DC Comics.

Mr. Yang, 42, the son of Chinese immigrants, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He began drawing at 2, he said, and “I basically never stopped.” His gateway for comic books was Superman, which he began reading in fifth grade. Marvel’s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man soon followed. He started creating his own comics. “I was always interested in telling stories through drawings,” he recalled.

At the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. Yang majored in computer science partly to please his father, who wanted him to pursue something practical, and minored in creative writing. He worked as a computer engineer for two years after graduating and then began teaching computer science at a high school, a job that lasted 17 years. He gave it up only when his travels in support of his books began to involve too much time away.

Secret Coders,” released in September, was inspired partly by his teaching experience. “What I wanted to do was combine a narrative with lessons,” he said. “You ought to be able to do basic programming from reading the first volume.” Mr. Yang is also running an art contest related to the book to encourage readers to try some basic programming.

Mr. Yang also taps his background for his work with DC Comics. “When DC approached me, ‘Superman as the prototypical immigrant’ was one of my first thoughts,” he wrote in an email. He noted that dual identities are a daily reality for the children of immigrants. “Many of us use one name at home, another at school,” he said. “We move between two different sets of expectations the way many superheroes do.” When he recounted Superman’s origin story in an issue published in November as part of an adventure set in Oakland, Calif., he gave the superhero some immigrant anxieties about belonging.

In reflecting on his new role as ambassador, Mr. Yang said he found his wife, Theresa, a development director for an elementary school, a tremendous resource. He said that he was inspired by her program for encouraging students to read and write in different genres and that she was enthusiastic about the ambassadorship. His children — a son and three daughters — are a little harder to satisfy.

It is difficult to impress any kid that you see on a daily basis,” Mr. Yang said. The same is true of his children’s reactions to his books, though all of them are avid readers. “They tell me they like them, but they like other people’s books better than mine.

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Modern day women transform into historical beauty figures

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Audrey Magazine:

Societal ideals of beauty are constantly shifting. For instance, a recent ambition for many women in the United States is no longer looking like a thin runway model. Instead, many want to look healthy and strong while embracing curves (think Beyonce). We like big butts and we cannot lie! Of course, ideals of beauty vary from culture to culture.

Buzzfeed took three women from different ethnicities and transformed them into historical figures that represented the cultural beauty of that specific time. The results? Beautiful transformations and makeup looks! Check out the video below:

Despite how entertaining the video was, I’m left wondering what exactly are the components of these traditional beauty looks? What’s the cultural and historical significance?

Let’s take a peek back into history.

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Traditional Indian Beauty


The first woman in the video expresses that she is Hindu and “everything that Indians do has a meaning or culture to it.” This concept is also reflected in their ideals of beauty. Women, and sometimes men, wear “kajal” which is essentially eyeliner. It’s believed that wearing kajal would strengthen their sight and protect the wearer from bad luck.

What about the dots? Although the makeup artist took a creative route with this look, the dots represents the traditional “bindi.” The bindi is a dot between the eyebrows and is worn for spiritual and religious purposes. It comes in many shapes, sizes and colors, but it is traditionally red, which represents love and honor.

 

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Chinese Beauty from the Tang Dynasty


The third woman in the video shares that she is an “ABC” or “American-born Chinese.” During the Tang Dynasty, there was prosperity. As a result, women who were more plump were considered beautiful because they were able to live a comfortable and relaxed lifestyle.

I love that bold lip color, don’t you? Lips were considered to be the sexiest part of a woman, so what better way to draw attention to them than wearing a bold color? Women in the Tang Dynasty would even dye their lips to achieve that cherry hue. But one thing hasn’t changed. For women in China smooth, light skin sans imperfections has been considered beautiful for thousands of years.

 

Boxers & Saints author Gene Luen Yang to take the helm of DC’s Superman

Gene Luen Yang will be writing DC's Superman. Where do I sign up?
Gene Luen Yang will be writing DC’s Superman

 

Reappropriate:

Last year, Marvel announced efforts to broaden the diversity of their superhero lineup; only to run their main Marvel universe through the shredder this year and possibly erase all those gains. Meanwhile, both DC and Marvel have been criticized that even when they elevate the profiles of non-White and non-male superheroes, previous efforts have stumbled due at least in part to failures to implement behind-the-scenes diversity initiatives; thus, earlier announcements have come across as transient pandering that lacks connection to the actual experiences of women and minorities while failing to produce opportunities for minority creators.

Last week, DC announced its own radical shift that would be taking hold of the DC superhero universe in the coming months. No, not another Crisis: DC announced a major roster change in the creative teams behind several ongoing titles as well as the launch of several new books, all with the general goal of “broadening” the focus of the DC universe. In layman’s terms? DC is diversifying their superheros, and it turns out that they’re going to do it the right way: behind-the-scenes as well as in front.

MarySue is all over the news, highlighting the launch of two new titles that feature strong female superhero protagonists –– Black Canary and Starfire. This will be Starfire’s first solo title, and notably, she’s received a costume redesign that (finally) covers her top half (although, of course, she’s still wearing booty shorts).  In addition to a limited run Harley Quinn/ Power Girl (which may feature the new Power Girl, Tanya Spears who is Black and also apparently awesome) miniseries, these newly launched female-led titles will join ongoing series featuring Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Batgirl and Wonder Woman, making DC’s newly announced efforts one of the most inclusive comic lineups with regard to women.

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Starfire’s new look.

With regard to racial diversity, a few (but not that many) characters of color will also be promoted to solo title status; most notably, Cyborg will get his own series, written by current author of Shaft, David Walker. The cover of We Are Robin also features several Robins, including both women and people of colour. The new title, Midnighter, will focus on a gay male lead character.

But the real news here is what’s going on behind-the-scenes: DC’s newest slate of creative teams features an almost unprecedented number of women and minority creators. For the New 52 relaunch, less than 1% of DC’s writers were women. In this new announcement, six women (or 17% of all writers, a big deal in the traditionally male-dominated comics industry) will be women. Even more importantly, several of the female writers will be writing female protagonists: Meredith Finch will be writing Wonder Woman, Gail Simone will continue her work on Secret Six (which includes several female characters), Amanda Connor will co-write Harley QuinnStarfire, and the Harley Quinn/Power Girl mini-series, and Genevieve Valentine will write Catwoman.

Today’s announcement is also a big deal for Asian American comic book writers and artists. Greg Pak, who has done phenomenal work for both DC and Marvel, will be continuing to write Action Comics and Superman/Batman. The big news is that Gene Luen Yang, author of several award-winning comic books including American Born ChineseBoxers & Saints, and The Shadow Hero will be making his DC Comics debut to take over the ongoing Superman series. DC reports that Yang will be charged with helping to depict Superman “in a more contemporary light”. Ming Doyle, one of the industry’s few Asian American female talents, will also be joining Constantine: The Hellblazer as a writer, and Dark Universe as an artist.

Teamed with artist John Romita, Jr., Yang will be the first Asian American to write the tale of DC Comics’ flagship superhero in his eponymous title; this is also symbolic because Superman’s story — with its immigrant narrative overtones — has long spoken to Asian American fanboys. As Will West put it:

This is a pretty big deal. An Asian American is writing the American Dream superhero.

(Of course, Pak has been writing Superman through both Action Comics and Superman/Batman or some time, but you get the gist!)

Yang’s writing is just superb and stellar; I’ve been a fan for years. I haven’t been buying comics in a number of years; the addition of Yang and Doyle to a writing staff that already includes Pak’s strong work is making me change my mind on that decision.

As far as Asian American creative talent are concerned, Yang, Pak and Doyle will also be joined by several Asian American artists in driving the behind-the-scenes work for DC. Talented Asian American artists Bernard Chang, Sonny Liew, Ardian Syaf, Annie Wu and Billy Tan will pencil Batman BeyondDr Fate, Batman/Superman, Black Canary, and Green Lantern, respectively; Irene Koh is also working on art for Black Canary although she’s listed by BleedingCool and not included in  DC’s official announcement.

DC says:

“This heralds in a new era for the DC Universe which will allow us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio.  “Whether you’ve been a DC fan your whole life, or whether you are new to comics – there will be a book for you beginning in June.”

 

New graphic novel tells the story of The Green Turtle, the first Asian American superhero


Angry Asian Man:

At long last! Evildoers cower and flee! It’s the triumphant return of the masked crimefighter known as the Green Turtle! Wait… who? What, you mean you’ve never heard of the first Asian American superhero? Then you must read The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, on shelves this week from First Second.

Okay, if you’ve never heard of the Green Turtle, I can’t really blame you. He’s an obscure Golden Age character that briefly appeared in the pages of Blazing Comics during the 1940s. While the character’s run was short-lived, what makes the Green Turtle interesting is his creator, Chinese American artist Chu F. Hing.

 

Legend has it, Chu wanted to make a series about a superhero of Asian descent, but his publisher wouldn’t allow it, because, you know, America. So Chu found a weird, passive-aggressive way to make the character Asian: he never showed his hero’s face. If you look at the old comics, the Green Turtle is always drawn so that his face is obscured, either hidden by shadow, or blocked by a piece of furniture or even his own arm.

Gene, the award-winning graphic novelist behind American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints, was intrigued and inspired by the lore of the Green Turtle, and saw it as an opportunity to tell a great story about the first Asian American superhero. With art by Sonny Liew, The Shadow Hero revives the character, and spins an all-new origin story for a new generation of comic book fans.

The Shadow Hero tells the story of Hank Chu, a Chinese American teenager growing up in 1930s Chinatown. Hank wants nothing more than to work in his family’s grocery store, but his mother has more ambitious plans. She wants him to embody the excitement of their new home. She wants him to become a superhero.

From the obscure depths of what should have been a mildly curious footnote in comics history, Gene and Sonny have extracted and crafted a marvelous, heartfelt, unmistakably Asian American superhero tale. They’ve even managed to weave some of the weirdest elements of the character (seriously, what kind of superhero name is “Green Turtle”?) into their inventive origin story. 

Best of all, this is not just a comic book tale about powers, masks and villains, though it’s got all that great stuff.The Shadow Hero is also a story about the immigrant experience, explored through the genre of superheroes. I expected to love this book. (Yes, I judged it by its cover.) I didn’t expect to be so moved by its heart.

The trade paperback of The Shadow Hero is now available from booksellers everywhere, including Amazon. You can also download digital issues from Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple iBooks. For further information about The Shadow Hero, visit Gene Luen Yang’s website.

To celebrate the release of The Shadow Herotwenty-seven different artists are doing their takes on the Green Turtle, one a day through the end of the month. Check out the first few drawings here.