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Gene Luen Yang on creating graphic novels out of 'mini-obsessions'

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'Boxers & Saints' by Gene Luen Yang
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Gene Luen Yang has been creating comics for nearly 20 years. His book, "American Born Chinese," became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award in 2006. 

His latest book project, "Boxers & Saints," comes from what the author called  one of his "mini-obsessions." The box set, which Kerri calls "vibrant, nuanced and suspenseful," focuses on China's Boxer Rebellion. There's also a thread of how different religions of the world share some universal values. The set made the long list for the National Book Awards. 

Yang also teaches creative writing at Hamline University. He uses his own experiences creating graphic novels to inspire students to take risks. 

"When I talk to my students about what they should write, I always tell them to tackle the project that scares them a little bit," he said in The Comics Reporter. "That's what I did with 'Boxers and Saints' and with 'American Born Chinese.' But especially with 'Boxers and Saints.' I didn't know very much about the Boxer Rebellion. I'd never done anything that was research intensive. It was a little bit scary for me going in. I thought, 'If I'm going to fail, I want to fail big. I want to fail in a big way.' [laughter] That got me to jump in."