Wow. Gene Yang’s AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, published by First Second, has scored a National Book Award nomination in the YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE category. These awards are extremely prestigious — a win for Yang would be almost as earth-shaking as Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer for Maus. Just to be a finalist is a huge accomplishment for Yang and First Second.

UPDATE: We’re informed this is the first ever National Book Award nomination for a graphic novel.

According to the award PR:

Gene Luen Yang, America Born Chinese (First Second/Holtzbrinck)

This graphic novel portrays the life of a young Chinese-American boy who moves from San Francisco’s Chinatown to the suburbs, where he is one of two Asian children in the school.

Gene Yang is a San Francisco Bay Area native and has been drawing comic books since the fifth grade and is the author of Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks and Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order (both 2004), among other books. In 1997 he received a Xeric Grant. He still lives in the Bay Area and teaches computer science at a Roman Catholic high school.

Other finalists in the category:

M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party (Candlewick Press)

Martine Leavitt, Keturah and Lord Death (Front Street Books/Boyds Mills)

Patricia McCormick, Sold (Hyperion)

Nancy Werlin, The Rules of Survival (Dial/Penguin)


  1. This is an awesome accomplishment for the category. the Pulitzers are nice, but they are after all, primarily Newspaper awards. The National Book Awards are the most prestigious book awards in the country and even getting nominated is a huge accomplishment and boost for the graphic literature category. Way to go First Second.

  2. I’ve known Gene Yang for years now and he DESERVES this on every level. American Born Chinese is a milestone in his work, in content, and in packaging. This is a must read. Soon as I finished it I loaned mine to a friend. It has to be shared.

  3. That’s great, although that looks like a tough win for Yang. MT Anderson generally kills at these sorts of things.

  4. Yang’s nomination harken’s back to the last NY Comicon where the buzzword for comics was “vindicated!”

    Both Yang and First Second have done a phenomenal job producing this book. But content-wise, I have to say, I would have never thought that a comic narrative portraying the Chinese experience in this country would capture the attention or command the respect of something like the National Book Awards.

    Growing up on Chao Hung-pen and Chein Hsiao-tai’s comic adaptation of Wu Cheng An’s Monkey King/Journey to the West, it never dawned on me that 20 years later these stories would reach a wider audience.

    While the diplomatic side of me wants to say that a nomination alone is enough, the comics fan in me is just waiting for ABChinese to kick more literary butt.

    Bravo Gene Yang!

  5. I actually just read ABC this morning! What a great book. The art and story match each other perfectly, and the concept is very thought-provoking. I really hope that ABC wins because both Gene and First Second deserve it!

  6. Now I’m totally torn; Rules of Survival is hands-down the best YA novel I have read so far this year; it is quintessentially YA. When I received the advance reading copy, I sat down and didn’t stop reading until I finished it. But – I also love American Born Chinese, which was another can’t-put-down-until-done book.

    For YA librarians, this list of nominees is one of the best slates I’ve seen for the NBA.

  7. This is undeniably great news for comics and for Asian Americans!

    Congrats to Gene.

    I really liked ABC as a tale of Asian Am identity. Though, as a non-Christian Chinese person, I’m disappointed that the Buddhist tale of the Journey to the West portion was transformed into a Christian allegory. It’s a minor thing, and most people unfamiliar w/ Chinese lit may not even notice it.

  8. Of all the First Second books this was the one I was most excited to see come out. Especially in such a beautiful collected form. It’s amazing to see the world at large take notice. Gene is an amazing talent and totally deserves the recognition! I hope this is just the begining!

  9. ” It’s a minor thing, and most people unfamiliar w/ Chinese lit may not even notice it.”

    Oh, that panel where the Monkey King’s quest winds up with him as a sidekick to the Three Wise Men was certainly jarring. I saw that and was like, “Wait, how the heck did he end up in Bethlehem?” Going to learn more about Yang, and finding out that he’s also done a comic-book “adaptation” of the Mysteries of the Rosary, though, it makes a little more sense.

    (And I have to say that, even as a not-particularly-devotional person, the very idea of a Rosary comic book is so awesome…an excellent mutation of the very structure of the Stations of the Cross found along the walls of just about every Catholic church.)

  10. Great comic… except the part where it’s revealed the Monkey King was at the Nativity. What a load- why do Chinese Christians have to mess everything up by being so brainwashed? The Monkey King story shouldn’t be threatening to them- why mess with it? And don’t they think that maybe a flying, talking god-monkey would have been mentioned in the Gospels if he was there? Pure stupidity, and it distracts from the rest of the work.