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November 16, 2006

The National Book Award

Well it was glamorous!

The National Book Awards, the NY literati equivalent of the Oscars was held in Times Square last night, complete with bowties, a hilarious Fran Leibowitz, and enough of the highest writing talent to make even editors feel starstruck. Although I was rooting for Gene Yang, sincere congratulations to this year's winner in the Young People's Literature Category!

Octavian

"The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party," by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press) took the award home — but he started his acceptance speech with . . . American Born Chinese!

Here's what today's Washington Post reports:

In his acceptance speech, Anderson made a point of noting that Gene Luen Yang's "American Born Chinese" was the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award. "There is a lot of dithering in the blogosphere," he said, about whether graphic novels are worthy. This can now be laid to rest.

[. . . ]

Before the ceremony, which was held at Manhattan's Marriott Marquis Hotel, writers and publishing folk drank and mingled.

Yang said he thinks we're "in the middle of a renaissance for the graphic novel" -- finally seeing "an entire body of work" in the form that aspires to be literature.

And today's L.A Times :

The award for young people's literature went to M.T. Anderson for "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party," the tale of a slave in revolutionary Boston, published by Candlewick Press. In accepting, Anderson praised the nominating panel for including for the first time in the National Book Awards' 57-year history a work of graphic fiction, Oakland comic artist Gene Luen Yang's "American Born Chinese."

"I am just really glad we are leading the charge," he said of the nomination of a story told through its artwork as much as its words.

Speaking before the awards ceremony, Yang described his nomination as a step forward for all graphic artists. "It is a recognition of work done over the last 10 years," he said.

"Art Spiegelman once made a promise that comics could be literature," he said. "I think this shows we're getting there."

For Yang, literature is a night job. He teaches computer science at a high school in Oakland, comes home for "family time" between 6 and 9 p.m. — his wife teaches fourth grade — then finally sits down to his art.

"How much I do depends on the night," he said. "I've gone all the way till 1. But sometimes I'm too tired after an hour."

His nominated work, "American Born Chinese," is about a Chinese American boy who moves from San Francisco's Chinatown to the suburbs.

Comments

With all due respect to the winner, "American Born Chinese" remains the best book I've read so far this year. Nothing else has touched me in the way this book has. It will always remain a standout.

Hi, Mark,

I know your new range of GNs have gone down well with the crew here and it is terrific to see such mainstream attention and respect given to the medium - kudos to the First Second crew.

That was really cool of MT Anderson to mention Gene and graphic novels. I've heard really great things about his book too.

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