A major writer of children’s literature, Laurence Michael Yep was born and grew up in San Francisco, living on the upper floor of his Chinese American parents’ grocery store. His uneventful childhood, recounted in The Lost Garden, later provided material for novels such as Child of the Owl and Sea Glass. Two turning points in his adolescence were his discovery of science fiction and having a high school English teacher who inspired him to become a writer. While studying journalism at Marquette University, he published a science-fiction story, “The Selchey Kids” (1968), anthologized in Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr’s World’s Best Science Fiction: 1969 (1969). Its protagonist—a survivor of the flooding of California who discovers that he was created by an experimental combination of human and dolphin genes—imaginatively foreshadows the focus of several later novels involving young Chinese Americans troubled because they are not fully Chinese, not fully American, but a combination of the two.
Yep continued his education, earning a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1970 and a Ph.D. in English from the State University of New York, Buffalo, in 1975. Encouraged by his future wife and then-editor Joanne Ryder, he wrote a children’s science-fiction novel, Sweetwater, in 1973. Though he later wrote three more science-fiction novels for adults—Seademons, a Star Trek novel (Shadow Lord, 1985), and Monster Makers, Inc.—the direction of Yep’s career was set by his second, more successful, children’s novel, Dragonwings. In the early 1900’s, a Chinese boy goes to San Francisco to live with his father, who works at a laundry but believes the message of a dream that he is really a dragon in human form. Possessing a natural aptitude for mechanical work,...
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