Two-time National Book Award finalist Gene Luen Yang (@geneluenyang) joins Hard N.O.C. Life for a special episode discussing his career as an award-winning graphic novelist and his involvement in the Avatar/Korra comic universe.
“The difference between stupid and intelligent people – and this is true whether or not they are well-educated – is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations – in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.” — Constable Moore, The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson’s 1995 science fiction classic, The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, blew me away when I first read it as an idealistic NOC-in-training. I interpreted it as a heartwarming coming-of-age story about a down-and-out little girl named Nell who stumbled upon a copy of the Primer, a multi-disciplinary interactive textbook designed to train an upper-class girl to adulthood. She saves herself and the world through what she learns from the Primer. Girl power! The end!
It turns out, upon a recent re-reading, that I failed to recognize about ten other layers of the onion, all of them much heavier than the idea of an interactive book for girls. There is Stephenson’s grim portrayal of the future of China, for one, as well as his prediction that the boundary lines between people will not be drawn on a geographic plane, but rather by culture, and people will form tribes based on race, religion, or other creeds.
Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers&Saints are companion books telling two stories from opposite viewpoints. The stories are told through two characters, Little Bao and Four-Girl, based on the historical and violent Boxer Rebellion movement in China that started in the late 1800s in which pro-nationalists tried to rid China of foreigners and Christian missionaries. Boxers tells of the pro-nationalist point of view while Saints tells of the Chinese Christian point of view. Although each book is sold separately, they are intended to be companion pieces to each other, even so far as to have covers which can be matched together to form one larger cover.
Back in 2006, Gene Luen Yang made comic book history by being the first cartoonist to become a finalist for a National Book Award for American Born Chinese, one of the most prestigious literary honors in the country. Well, it looks like Lebron James isn’t the only two-time NBA champion since Yang has received another National Book Award nomination, this time for Boxers & Saints, his latest book from First Second.