LEARNING ABOUT LAURENCE YEP

Compiled by: Adrienne Gendell and Maggie Hanley with Kay E. Vandergrift in Young Adult Literature

INTRODUCTION

Laurence Michael Yep calls to the multicultural aspect of the young adult literary world. A Chinese-American, Yep writes realistic fiction, science fiction, and fantasy for children, young adults, and adults. His concerns are reflected in his many works by exhibiting viewpoints dealing with cultural alienation and racial conflict. The characters' use of imagination and the need for tolerance by others are prevalent themes in his work. These stories allowed Yep to create a world, a culture which he felt he was lacking while growing up. Yep feels his stories have appeal for teens because the protagonists are often outsiders, a commonality shared with teens.

BIOGRAPHY

Born June 14, 1948 in San Francisco, California, Yep was the son of Thomas Gim Yep and Franche Lee Yep. Franche Lee, her family's youngest child, was born in Ohio and raised in West Virginia where her family owned a Chinese laundry. Yep's father, Thomas, was born in China and came to America at the age of ten where he lived, not in Chinatown, but with an Irish friend in a white neighborhood. After troubling times during the Depression, he was able to open a grocery store in an African-American neighborhood. Growing up in San Francisco, Yep felt alienated. He was in his own words his neighborhood's "all-purpose Asian" and did not feel he had a culture of his own. Joanne Ryder, a children's book author, and Yep met and became friends during college while she was his editor. They later married and now live in San Francisco.

Although not living in Chinatown, Yep commuted to a parochial bilingual school there. Other students at the school, according to Yep, labeled him a "dumbbell Chinese" because he spoke only English. During high school he faced the white American culture for the first time. However, it was while attending high school that he started writing for a science fiction magazine, being paid one cent a word for his efforts. After two years at Marquette University, Yep transferred to the University of California at Santa Cruz where he graduated in 1970 with a B.A. He continued on to earn a Ph.D. in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1975. Today as well as writing, he has taught writing and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and Santa Barbara.

DISSERTATION

"Self-Communion: The Early Novels of William Faulkner," diss. State U of New York at Buffalo, 1975.

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF LAURENCE YEP

Novels

Sweetwater. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.

Dragonwings. New York: Harper & Row, 1975; Lung i. fan i Mei-li Yeh. Ch'u pan. T'ai-pei shih: Chih mao wen hua shih yeh yu hsien kung ssu, min kuo. [1992]

Child of the Owl. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

Sea Glass. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

Dragon of the Lost Sea. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.

Kind Hearts and Gentle Monsters. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.

The Mark Twain Murders. New York: Four Winds, 1982.

Liar, Liar. New York: Morrow, 1983.

The Serpent's Children. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.

The Tom Sawyer Fires. New York: Morrow, 1984.

Dragon Steel. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

Mountain Light. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

Shadow Lord: A Star Trek Novel No. 22. New York: Pocket Books, 1985.

Monster Makers, Inc. New York: Arbor House, 1986.

The Curse of the Squirrel. Illus. Dirk Zimmer. New York: Random House, 1987; L'ecureuil Ensorcele. Illus. Dirk Zimmer. Trans. Marie-Claud Favrecu. Saint-Lambert: Heritage, 1989.

The Rainbow People. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.

When the Bomb Dropped: The Story of Hiroshima. Illus. Robert Andrew Parker. New York: Random House, 1990.

Dragon Cauldron. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

The Star Fisher. New York: Morrow, 1991.

Tongues of Jade. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

The Lost Garden. Englewood Cliffs: Messner, 1991.

Dragon War. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Dragon's Gate. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

The Butterfly Boy. Illus. Jeanne M. Lee. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1993.

The Man Who Tricked a Ghost. Illus. Isadore Seltzer. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater, 1993.

The Shell Woman & the King: A Chinese Folktale. Illus. Yang Ming-Yi. New York: Dial, 1993.

The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes. Illus. Jean and Mou-sien Tseng. New York: Scholastic, 1994.

The Ghost Fox. Illus. Jean and Mou-sien Tseng. New York: Scholastic, 1994.

The Junior Thunder Lord Illus. Robert Van Nutt. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater, 1994.

Tiger Woman. Illus. Robert Roth. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater, 1994.

The City of Dragons. Illus. Jean and Mou-sien Tseng. New York: Scholastic, 1995.

Later, Gater. New York: Hyperion, 1995.

Thief of Hearts. New York: Harper, 1995.

Tree of Dreams: Ten Tales from the Garden of Night. Illus. Isadore Seltzer. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater, 1995.

Hiroshima. New York: Scholastic, 1995.

Dragon Prince. Illus. by Kam Mak. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

Ribbons New York: Putnam, 1996.

The Mongolian Shepherd. Illus. by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng. New York: Scholastic, 1996.

The Case of the Goblin People. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

Adult Books

Seademons. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

Plays

"Pay the Chinaman" in Between Worlds: Contemporary Asian-American Plays. Misha Berson, ed. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1990, pp.176-196.

Dragonwings. New York: Dramatist Play Service, 1993.

Short Stories

"Selchey Kids," in Wollheim, Donald A. and Terry Carr. eds. World's Best Science Fiction 1969. New York: Ace, 1969.

"My Friend, Klatu," in Signs and Wonders. Roger Elwood, comp. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1972. also in Visions of Tomorrow. Roger Elwood, ed. New York: Ace, 1976.

"Looking-Glass Sea," in Strange Bedfellows: Sex and Science Fiction. Thomas N. Scortia, ed. New York: Random House, 1972, pp.165-177.

Edited Works

Yep, Laurence, ed. American Dragons: Twenty-Five Asian American Voices. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Articles by Laurence Yep

"Writing Dragonwings." Reading Teacher. Vol. 30, No. 4 (January 1977): 359-363.

"Fantasy and Reality." Horn Book Vol. 54 (April 1978): 136.

"Attack of the Giant Teenage Space Dogs: Notes of a Science Fiction Film Fan." Top of the News. Vol. 39, No.1 (Fall 1982): 92-94.

"The Green Cord." Horn Book. Vol 65 (May-June 1989): 318-22.

"A Cord to the Past." CMLEA. Vol. 15 (Fall 1991): 8-10.

"A Garden of Dragons." The ALAN Review. Vol. 19, No. 3 (Spring 1992): 6-8.

Other Media

Laurence Yep. Filmstrip/cassette. Westminster: Random House/Miller/Brody, 1981.

The Curse of the Squirrel. Sound recording. Music by Arthur Custer. New York: Random House, 1989.

The Rainbow People. 3 Cassettes. Prince Frederick: Recorded Books, 1993.

AWARDS

Dragonwings

Child of the Owl

Sea Glass

Dragon Steel

The Rainbow People

Dragon's Gate

WORKS ABOUT LAURENCE YEP

Wigutoff, Sharon. "Junior Fiction: A Feminist Critique." The Lion and the Unicorn. Vol. 5 (1981): 4-18.

Dinchak, Maria. "Recommended: Laurence Yep." English Journal. Vol. 71 (March 1982): 81-82.

"Laurence Yep." in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 35 Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1985, pp. 468-474.

Stines, Joe. "Laurence Yep." in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Glenn Estes, ed. Vol. 52 Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1986, pp. 392-398.

"World Building." in. Innocence & Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children's Literature. Barbara Harrison, ed New York: Lothrop, 1987, pp.182-184.

Jones, Dolores Blythe. Children's Literature Awards and Winners: A Directory of Prizes, Authors, and Illustrators. Detroit, MI: Neal-Schuman with Gale Research Inc., 1988, p. 563.

"Laurence Michael Yep." in Children's Literature Review. Gerald J. Senick, ed. Vol. 17, Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1989, pp. 201-209.

Lynn, Ruth Nadelman. Fantasy Literature for Children and Young Adults. 3rd ed. New York: R. R. Bowker, 1989, p. 184.

Molsen, Francis J. "Laurence [Michael] Yep." in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. 3rd ed. Tracey Chevalier, ed. Chicago, IL: St. James Press, 1989, pp.1074-1075.

Olderr, Steven. ed. and Candace P. Smith, assoc. ed. Olderr's Young Adult Fiction Index. Chicago, IL: St. James Press, 1990, p. 158.

Gillespie, John T. and Corinne J. Naden, eds. Best Books for Children: Preschool through Grade 6. 4th ed. New York: R. R. Bowker, 1990, p. 272.

"Laurence Yep." in Authors & Artists for Young Adults. Agnes Garrett and Helga P. McCue, eds. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, pp. 245-252.

"Laurence Yep." Speaking for Ourselves: Autobiographical Sketches by Notable Authors of Books for Young Adults. Donald R. Gallo, comp. and ed. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1990, pp. 222-224.

Cai, Mingshui. "A Balanced View of Acculturation: Comments on Laurence Yep's Three Novels." Children's Literature in Education Vol. 23 (June 1992): 107-118.

McElmeel, Sharron L. Bookpeople: A Multicultural Album. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1992, p. 137-144.

Walker, Neil E. and Beverly Baer. Book Review Index: A Master Cumulation 1985-1992. vol. a. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1992, p. 5847-5848.

Olendorf, Donna. ed. Something About the Author. vol. 69. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1992, p. 230-234.

"Laurence Michael Yep." in Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. Vol. 6. Laurie Collier and Joyce Nakamura, eds. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1993, pp. 2522-2525.

Kovacs, Deborah and James Preller. Meet the Authors and Illustrators. vol. 2. New York: Scholastic Professional Books, 1993, p.134-135.

Burnston, Patrick. "In the Studio With Laurence Yep." Publishers Weekly. Vol. 241 (May 16, 1994): 25-26.

Morgan, Karen Ferris. "Laurence [Michael] Yep." in Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers. Laura Standley, ed. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1994, pp. 723-725.

Manczuk, Suzanne and Ray Barber. "Books in the Middle: Outstanding Books of '94 for the Middle School Reader." VOYA. 17, June, 1994, p.71-72.

Colborn, Candy. What Do Children Read Next?: A Readers Guide to Fiction for Children. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994, p. 774.

Spencer, Pam. What Do Young Adults Read Next?: A Reader's Guide of Fiction for Young Adults. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1994, p. 581-582.

Vandergrift, Kay E. "Laurence Michael Yep." in Writers of Multicultural Fiction for Young Adults: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook. M. Daphne Kutzer, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

CRITICAL REVIEWS AND COMMENTARIES

Dragonwings

Summary

A flying machine, a reincarnated dragon, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a young boy growing up - if this sounds like an unusual combination, it all fits together in the story of Dragonwings. a 1975 Newbery Honor book written by Yep after six years of research, Moon Shadow's story comes to life. As a boy of eight, he comes to America to live with his father, Windrider, in Chinatown. An interesting dream sequence is related by Windrider in his effort to explain his actions to Moon Shadow, his newly arrived son. Windrider is driven to build and fly his own airplane. Clear pictures are depicted about life for the Chinese people in and around Chinatown during the early 1900's, many not pleasant. Forced to leave the familiarity of the clan, Moon Shadow and his father board with a white family as Windrider plans and corresponds with the Wright Brothers about airplanes and flight. Moon Shadow grows up quickly as he takes on more jobs as head of the household. The devastation of the earthquake is portrayed with power but not dwelled upon greatly. A trust and friendship develop between cultures as differences are seen as minimal and similarities greater.

Child of the Owl

Summary

(also as a CD-ROM version - Macmillan/McGraw-Hill)

This book is about Casey, a motherless Chinese-American girl, who goes to live with her maternal grandmother, Paw-Paw. Casey's father, Barney, is cast as a compulsive gambler, who was hospitalized when beaten up by a bookie. We see the story unfold as Casey begins to think of herself as Chinese, something that is new to her. Casey, upon arriving in Chinatown, feels alienated only speaking English; this being similar to how Yep describes himself. Paw-Paw shows Casey her owl charm and tells her the legend of the ancestral Owl Spirit. The folklore story of the owl, however lengthy, precipitated Casey desiring to be more "Chinese," to learn more about her mother, Jeannie, and to become the "Child of the Owl."

We witness the robbery of the owl charm and the beating that Paw-Paw receives when attempting to ward off the burglar. Casey and her friend, Talia, stake out a pool hall to fine the burglar - a little too reminiscent of Nancy Drew! The reader sympathizes with Casey at the surprise ending, when she finds out that the burglar is none other than her irresponsible father, Barney! Happily, at the end Barney joins Gamblers Anonymous. In the Afterword, Yep says that Chinatown is a "state of mind and heart." It is this which he tries to portray in Child of the Owl.

"An involved first-person narrative with a vividly detailed setting." From: Review of Child of the Owl. Booklist. 81 (February, 1985): 793.

Dragon Steel

Summary

Dragons and fancy are the combination for Dragon Steel as the dragon princess, Shimmer, and her friend, Thorn, a young orphan boy, try to reconstruct the lost world of the dragons. This is the second in a series of four books involving Shimmer's quest to restore her homeland. There are some moments of rivalry and jealousy as a new helper, Indigo, joins the team. Trust and belief in one another are nicely portrayed, as is faith in a dreamer. There are occasional lapses in the story line making things somewhat hard too follow at times. Also the ending is rather abrupt and unsatisfying. However, taken altogether and read in sequence as part of the set of four stories, this is a wonderful fancy world of dragons and magic.

"... The series as a whole promises to be an original approach to friendship on a quest... Fantasy readers will want to start with the Dragons of the Lost Sea and libraries should plan to purchase the whole series..." From: Caywood, Carolyn Review of Dragon Steel. School Library Journal. 32 (September, 1985): 150.
"... a fable which is readable, especially for middle and junior high students, on two levels: first, as enjoyable reading and, second, as an allegory of perseverance and loyalty." From: Perry, Frank. Review of Dragon Steel. VOYA. 8 (August, 1985): 195.
"... morality is sometimes heavy-handed,... But the outlaw dragon and her orphaned human companions are strong and touching in their search for a home..." From: Review of Dragon Steel. Booklist. 81 (May. 1985): 1338.

Dragon Cauldron

"...these [story] companions clearly value group loyalty above personal honor....draws from Chinese folk tradition.... Readers with a taste for dragons..." From: Caywood, Carolyn. Review of Dragon Cauldron. School Library Journal. 37 (June, 1991): 113-114.

Dragon's Gate

Summary

Life was excruciating for the Chinese who worked in the Sierra Nevada mountains building the western route of the transcontinental railroad. They were held in very low regard and treated like animals, whipped and starved. Otter comes to join his Uncle Foxfire and adoptive father, in America after accidentally killing a Manchu solider near his hometown in China, the Middle Kingdom. Otter is remorseful at seeing how weak his hero-like uncle behaves toward the "white demon" foreman at the mountain worksite. Living and working conditions are continually life threatening in the brutally cold mountains, but Otter grows to understand his uncle and himself as they both try to save the camp from certain death due to an avalanche.

A well written and thoroughly researched book, as noted in the Afterward, Yep touches on the strong human elements of trust and disappointment, resentment, separation, team work, and promises kept. Dragons again deliver a message of importance to the story in Dragon's Gate.

"... engaging survival-adventure story, a social history, a heroic quest....!4- year- old... Otter begins his harrowing journey toward self-knowledge.... The language has an appealing naturalism and the concerns... are universally human...." From: Corsaro, Julie. Review of "Dragon's Gate." Booklist. 90 (January, 1994): 817.
"Yep uses the lively storytelling... to re-create a stirring historical event - here, the construction of the transcontinental railroad.... Combining believable characters with thrilling adventure...." From: Chang, Margaret A. Review of Dragon's Gate. School Library Journal. 40 (January, 1994): 135.
for the recorded book cassettes "...Add this dramatic and suspenseful historical fiction audiobook to tour YA collection..." From: Tierney, Mark Phillips. Review of "Dragon's Gate." School Library Journal 41 (June, 1995): 71.

Hiroshima

Summary

A story which relates the facts of the bombing of Hiroshima in a novel form. Both sides, the Japanese and American, are explored and can be related to as one reads. The after effects of the bombing are followed to the present day. A compelling book for group discussions.

"... His words are powerful and compelling, and the facts he presents make readers realize the horrors of that day and its impact beyond....readers will be moved..." From: Review of Sherman, Louise L. "Hiroshima." School Library Journal 41 (May,1995): 110.

Reviewed in

Publisher's Weekly, 242, May 8, 1994, p. 297.

The Star Fisher

Reviewed in

New York Times Book Review, Oct. 13, 1991, p. 13, col. 1.

Publisher's Weekly, 238, May 10, 1991, p. 284.

Horn Book, 64, May - June, 1991, p. 334.

School Library Journal, 37, May, 1991, p. 113.

Tongues of Jade

Reviewed in

Horn Book, 68, Jan. - Feb., 1992, p. 84.

School Library Journal, 37, Dec., 1991, p. 132.

Publisher's Weekly, 238, Sept. 20, 1991, p. 134.

Sweetwater

also in braille and as a "talking book"

Reviewed in

Publisher's Weekly, 241, July 11, 1994, p. 95.

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Created March 27, 1996; Last updated November 20, 1996