"This graphic novelist and reading ambassador tells kids to reach beyond their comfort zone" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2016
SUMMARY: Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang wrestled with his identity growing up, but he's made the Chinese-American experience one of the main subjects of his critically acclaimed work. One of this year's MacArthur Fellowship winners and the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Yang sits down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss his childhood, his love of coding and the feeling of being an outsider.
GENE LUEN YANG, Ambassador for Young People's Literature (at lecture): I'm super excited to be here with you. My name is Gene.
JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour): Gene Luen Yang can seem like one of the kids himself.
GENE LUEN YANG This is what I look like in real life. That is what I look like as a cartoon and this morning, what I'm going to do is I'm going to share with you about two things that I love.
JEFFREY BROWN: Sharing things he loves is now part of his official job description, as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, an honor given him by the Library of Congress earlier this year.
And the two things he loves? Comic books and coding. We spoke recently as he visited Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Virginia.
GENE LUEN YANG: I think they're so related. Coding and writing stories, I really feel like I use the same parts of my brain to do both, right?
When you're making a comic what you do if you take a fairly complex storyline, and you have to break it up into individual panels. And coding is very much the same way. You take a complex concept and you break it up into individual lines. So, it's all about taking the complex and breaking it into simple, understandable pieces.
JEFFREY BROWN: I don't think everybody thinks of it that way, thinks of the connection between writing and coding.
GENE LUEN YANG: I think there is a tendency in modern American culture to separate the sciences from the arts, and to me it just feels like such a false dichotomy. You know, there are so many people who are interested in both. There are so many people pursuing both and who want to become good at both.
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