Cartoonist Gene Yang talks art and diversity

A cartoonist, artist, writer, and teacher, Gene Luen Yang inspires all on how to thrive in the arts.

Yang was a keynote speaker at ETSU’s Equity and Inclusion Conference on Sept. 29. The event was held in the Culp Ballroom and was free and open to the public despite registration. Beforehand, he had a book signing starting at 3:15 p.m.

Yang is most famous for his graphic novels and comic books. His many works include “American Born Chinese,” “Boxers & Saints,” “Secret Coders” and “The Shadow Hero.” He has worked with many major publishers, including DC Comics with “New Super-Man” and “Superman Smashes the Klan.” He has even worked with Dark Horse Comics with “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and Marvel Comics with “Strange Tales 2.”

Yang won many awards for his works, including Printz, Eisner, L.A. Times Book Prize, and Harvey awards.

Promotional board for Gene Yang’s conference as part of the Equity and Inclusion Conference. (Maggie Jones/East Tennessean).
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Promotional board for Gene Yang’s conference as part of the Equity and Inclusion Conference. (Maggie Jones/East Tennessean).

Through his graphic novels, Yang emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion through art. He wrote most of his graphic novels, like “American Born Chinese,” on his experience of racism as a Chinese American. Yang emphasized that religion and being Chinese are a part of who he is as an artist, especially when working on graphic novels like “American Born Chinese” and “Boxers & Saints.”

He is an advocate for reading and diversity. In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. From 2016-2018, he was a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

He posted his adventures in Tennessee on Instagram, including visiting the local Pal’s across from ETSU.

“I’m in Tennessee right now, and it’s kind of awesome,” Yang shared via Instagram Story on Sept. 29th at 6:00 p.m.

Fellow keynote speaker Dr. Imani Perry was held on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Culp Auditorium. ETSU’s fifth Equity and Inclusion Conference spanned from Sept. 28-30, titled “Beyond ‘Checking a Box: Building and Sustaining Campus-Wide Engagement for Belonging.”

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