What Is Gene Luen Yang Wearing?

Gene Luen Yang has one of the liveliest minds in children's books, and I was curious to know how he and his family were coping out there in California during the pandemic. He'd been on my mind because I've just read his new book Dragon Hoops, which I was surprised to love--I mean, I figured I would probably respect it, but all that basketball. Not to worry; it was completely engrossing, even the play-by-plays (is that the right term?).

Gene is wearing a hat in his picture because he doesn't want us to see his unkempt hair. AMEN BROTHER.

Are you one of these people who have spent the recent months developing a new skill, like Latin or juggling?

Unless doing author visits over Zoom counts as a new skill, I am not one of those people. I feel like I've been busier than ever. The separation between work and family has completely evaporated, so my wife and I are constantly multitasking. I am absolutely terrible at multitasking. (She is much, much better.)

My kids, on the other hand, have been developing all sorts of new skills. All four of them have taken up skateboarding. We have a family cooking schedule, so they've all learned new dishes. Our 13-year-old daughter made a burrito bake the other day that was pretty amazing.

They have lots of personal projects going on, too. Our 16-year-old son has started a fundraiser for PPE, Heroes Wear Masks, on Red Bubble.

My church has a live Mass on YouTube Sunday mornings; what is yours doing to keep people going?

Our family has been attending virtual Mass on YouTube, too. Our younger kids are squirrelly at in-person Mass. It's next level at virtual Mass. We found that arranging folding chairs in a row in front of the screen helps.

We've also tried to do our usual church community gatherings. My son's youth group has been meeting over Zoom. Icebreaker games have been a challenge. They've found that Kahoot works well.

The adults have been gathering on Zoom, too. It's mostly been group commiseration over homeschooling, group gratitude for continued health, and group prayer for this mess we're all in. Our faith life is now totally infused with technology.

California has lifted some of its COVID-related restrictions. What are you hoping to do?

We'd love to see our family and friends in person again. I'd love to go to my local comic shop, Illusive Comics, and browse the shelves. I really miss sitting in a cafe and typing on my laptop.

I feel especially bad for our oldest. April would have been a big month for him. He was going to take his driving test and have his braces removed. Hopefully, he'll be able to get those things done soon.

What, for you, is the difference between staying in the house because you want to and staying in the house because you have to?

My cartoonist friends and I have joked that COVID-19 has forced everyone to live like cartoonists. We've always spent a lot of time at home. The big difference for me is now the rest of the family is at home, too. Things are just...louder now.

When we can travel widely again, where in the world would you and your family most like to go? 

My kids were really, really looking forward to going to WonderCon in April. They really, really wanted to go to that. But who knows when conventions will get going again? Soon, I hope. I never thought I'd say this, but I kind of miss crowds.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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