Petra Mayer interviews Gene Luen Yang for NPR
Gene Luen Yang broke out in 2006 with American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award. It weaves three stories — about a Chinese-American boy, a terrible stereotype named Chin-Kee and the mythical Monkey King — into a complex tapestry of identity and assimilation.
Yang returns to the theme of identity and sense of self in his latest book, another National Book Award candidate. Boxers & Saints is a diptych following a Chinese boy and girl as their lives are upended by the Boxer Rebellion. Little Bao joins the Boxers — a violent, mystically-inspired fighting society dedicated to wiping out foreign influences in China at the turn of the 20th century. Vibiana, on the other side of the divide, sheds her Chinese name and her constrained home life to join a Christian missionary group after her family rejects her. Both must wrestle with questions of faith and identity: What does it mean to be Chinese? To be Christian? Can you be both?