Gene Luen Yang’s two-book boxed set Boxers and Saints, has been picked as one of the ten titles on the longlist of finalists for this year’s National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature. The shortlist of finalists will be named on October 16. Yang is the author of American Born Chinese, which was chosen as a National Book Award finalist in 2006 and is the first graphic novel ever nominated for an NBA.
This year the NBA is releasing longlists of the nominees in an effort to draw more attetntion to all the books chosen for consideration for the category award. The five shortlisted finalists will be named on October 16 and the winners will be announced at the gala National Book Awards dinner and ceremony on November 20 in New York City. A complete list of all ten books on the longlist for the NBA for Young Peoples Literature is located here.
Boxers and Saints, is an inventively structured 2-book set—the two books were published simultaneously by First Second—that looks at the Chinese Boxer Rebellion from the view of insurrectionists (the Boxers) and from the point of view the Chinese Christian converts (the Saints) and English missionaries they fought against. Check out our coverage of Boxers and Saints; the PW reviews of Boxers and Saints, and a video interview with Yang recorded at BookExpo America earlier this year.
PW Comics World tracked Yang down and asked him by email what’s it liked to be nominated a second time for the most prestigious award in American literature. “It's overwhelming,” Yang wrote, “There's just no other way to put it. And the list! I'm honored to be alongside such talented, inspiring storytellers.” Yang added, “Boxers & Saints is the third graphic novel to be nominated. Or fourth depending on how you count Hugo Caberet. We're getting to the point where it's unremarkable for a GN to be considered for the National Book Award. And that's a good thing.
Asked what the nomination says about the development of the comics medium, Yang said. “It says that folks like Lynda Barry, the Hernandez Brothers, Art Spiegelman, Harvey Pekar, and Marjane Satrapi have been effective. They've told amazing, compelling stories that have gotten the world at large to sit up and take notice. Over the last few decades, they've carved out a category in people's heads for comics that deal with serious topics.”
“Oh, man. The nomination itself is amazing,” Yang said when asked how important is it to win the final prize. “ It's already gotten people to read Boxers & Saints, which, when you get down to it, is what every author really wants.”
Yang also teaches computer science to high school kids. Asked if the new nomination will impress them he said, “No. It is impossible to impress teenagers that you see on a daily basis.” Well what about the tuxedo he’ll need if he makes the shortlist? If he makes the shortlist this will be his second NBA black tie dinner. Does he rent or own his tuxedo?
“I rent. I just turned 40 a month ago,” Yang said, “My waistline is in flux. Owning would be foolish at this point.”