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Southern Miss Medallion Winner Yang Praises USM Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival

Tue, 04/18/2023 - 04:44pm | By: David Tisdale

National Book Award winner Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang receives the Southern Medallion, The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival’s top honor, from USM President Dr. Joseph S. Paul (USM Photo by Kelly Dunn).

National Book Award winner Gene Luen Yang added another honor to his long list of accolades as a renowned children’s literature author and artist on April 13 when he accepted The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival’s top award, the Southern Miss Medallion, which was presented to him by USM President Dr. Joseph S. Paul.

An award-winning cartoonist and teacher, Yang’s 2016 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award, and the first to win the American Library Association’s (ALA) Printz Award. He was named the 2016-2017 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress.

The day’s events included a keynote lecture from Yang, a luncheon, and the Ezra Jack Keats Award ceremony. Yang also served as a keynote speaker at the 2016 Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.

“When I learned I was the recipient [of the Southern Miss Medallion], it left me a little speechless, knowing the event’s significance in the world of children’s literature and the list of those who have received this award before me who have been and continue to be notable contributors in the field,” Yang said. “I am honored.”

Yang’s other works include Boxers & Saints, the Avatar: the Last Airbender comics, Dragon Hoops, and Superman Smashes the Klan, among others. American Born Chinese also earned a coveted Eisner Award, and his follow-up solo graphic novel, Boxers & Saints, was also a National Book Award finalist and won a Printz Honor, along with the LA Times Book Prize for Young Readers; Dragon Hoops also received a Printz Honor and an Eisner Award, and Superman Smashes the Klan earned two Eisner Awards.

Reflecting on the festival and the people who travelled great distances to be in attendance, which was the first time in three years it has been held in-person, Yang talked of the strength of the genre of children’s literature and how the USM event underscores its significance with its annual celebration of excellence in children’s and young adult literature.

“Events like the Fay Kaigler Children’s Literature Festival prove the genre is a serious one, that children’s literature is real literature, that children’s literature illustrations are real art,” Yang further noted. “It should never be taken for granted, and deserves study, in and of itself.”

To learn more about the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at USM visit their website.