Author Profile: Laurence Yep [in Notable Asian Americans]
Laurence Yep is a multi-faceted writer. His best-known works include two children’s books, Dragonwings and Dragon’s Gate, both of which were named Newbery Honor books. His audiences include children and adults of all ages. Although he is best known as a science fiction writer, he doesn’t limit himself to one genre. He has written mythology and historical fiction, picture books and short stories, novellas as well as full-length novels. And, in the last 10 years, Yep has added playwriting to his growing repertoire.
Born in San Francisco, California, on June 14, 1948, Laurence Yep was named by his then-10-year-old brother who later admitted that, being unsure about gaining a sibling, he had named his younger brother after a saint who had died an especially brutal death.
A third-generation Chinese American, Yep lived in an apartment above his parents’ grocery store in the Western Edition District, a predominantly African American neighborhood of San Francisco. He rode the bus into Chinatown for school, he told Terry Hong in an interview: “Going back and forth between those two ghetto areas is why I got interested science fiction,” he explained. “In the 1950s when I was growing up, there were no books on being Chinese American. And I couldn’t identify with the standard children’s books because in all of them, the kids lived in houses where the front door was always unlocked and they all had bikes. I didn’t know anyone like that. I really liked science fiction because kids from the everyday world were taken to another world, and had to learn another language, another culture. Science fiction was about adapting and that’s what I was doing every time I got off the bus traveling between my two worlds.”
The Writer and the Academic
High school brought new changes to Yep’s life. “That was the first time I was around so many whites,” he recalled about the preparatory school run by Jesuits. “It was also in high school that I got involved with writing for the first time. I was going to be a chemist which is what my father wanted to be before he had to drop out of college during the Depression. In my senior year, I had an English teacher who told me that if I wanted an A in the course, I had to get something accepted in a national magazine. So I started sending in stories, and started getting rejections. The teacher eventually retracted the demand, but I had already gotten into the habit of sending in my stories.” …[click here for more]
Readers: Children, Middle Grade, Young Adult