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!
“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.