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Gene Luen Yang on his award-winning 'Boxers and Saints' [Video]

April 21, 2014|By Carolyn Kellogg

Gene Luen Yang has been getting a lot of attention from prize juries for his two-part graphic novel for young adults, "Boxers and Saints."

Set at the end of the 19th century, it begins with the story of a Chinese boy inspired by traditional Chinese gods to fight foreign oppression; in part two, an unwanted Chinese girl finds refuge with Christians who are threatened by the rebellion of the first book.

"Boxers and Saints" was a finalist for the National Book Award in November, and in April it took the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature.

"Being acknowledged by the L.A. Times for this particular project has special resonance for me," Yang later wrote on his publisher's website. "One of the protagonists of 'Boxers & Saints,' Vibiana, shares the same name as the patron saint of the city of Los Angeles.”

That's the unwanted girl, a fourth daughter who is not even given a name by her family. Yang, who grew up in a Chinese-Catholic community in the Bay Area, was introduced to the story of the Boxer Rebellion, in which his graphic novel is set, through the complicated history of Catholicism in China.

Yang attended the prize ceremony Friday as well as the L.A. Times Festival of Books, where he sat down with Times features editor Alice Short to talk about the book and his life as a writer.

"I grew up loving stories," Yang told Short. "And I also grew up drawing. So, from a very early age, I always wanted to tell stories through drawing. Which is basically what comics is." You can follow your own writer's path by playing our online game.

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