Laurence Yep

Last updated
Laurence Yep
Native name
叶祥添 / 葉祥添
Born (1948-06-14) June 14, 1948 (age 70)
San Francisco, California, US
EducationPh.D., English literature
Alma mater UC-Santa Cruz
Genre Historical fiction, speculative fiction, autobiography
Notable awards Boston Globe–Horn Book Award
Phoenix Award
Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal
SpouseJoanne Ryder

Laurence Michael Yep (simplified Chinese :叶祥添; traditional Chinese :葉祥添; pinyin :Yè Xiángtiān; born June 14, 1948) is a prolific Chinese-American writer, best known for children's books. In 2005, he received the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his career contribution to American children's literature. [1] [2]

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.



Yep was born in San Francisco to Yep Gim Lew (Thomas) and Franche. His older brother, Thomas, named him after studying a particular saint in a multicultural neighborhood that consisted of mostly African Americans. Growing up, he often felt torn between U.S. and Chinese culture, and expressed this in many of his books. A great deal of his work involves characters feeling alienated or not fitting into their surroundings and environment, something Yep has struggled with since childhood. Most of his life, he has had the feeling of being out of place, whether because he is the non athlete in his athletic family or because he is Chinese and once lived in Chinatown but does not speak the language. As it says in his autobiography, "I was too American to fit into Chinatown, and too Chinese to fit in anywhere else." As a boy, Yep attended a bilingual school in Chinatown. He later entered St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco where he continued his interest in chemistry and became equally intrigued with writing. His first writing was done in high school, for a science fiction magazine. His teacher, a priest, told him and a couple of his friends that to get an A, they had to get a piece of writing accepted by a magazine, and that's when he started to realize that a career in writing was meant to be.

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, US

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is a city in, and the cultural, commercial, and financial center of, Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th-most populous city in the United States, and the fourth-most populous in California, with 883,305 residents as of 2018. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second-most densely populated large US city, and the fifth-most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is also part of the fifth-most populous primary statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

African Americans are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the black racial groups of Africa. The term typically refers to descendants of enslaved black people who are from the United States.

Culture Social behavior and norms found in society

Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Culture is considered a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. Cultural universals are found in all human societies; these include expressive forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion, and technologies like tool usage, cooking, shelter, and clothing. The concept of material culture covers the physical expressions of culture, such as technology, architecture and art, whereas the immaterial aspects of culture such as principles of social organization, mythology, philosophy, literature, and science comprise the intangible cultural heritage of a society.

Yep attended Marquette University and graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He earned a Ph.D in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. [3]

Marquette University private university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US

Marquette University is a private research university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Established by the Society of Jesus as Marquette College on August 28, 1881, it was founded by John Martin Henni, the first Bishop of Milwaukee.

University of California, Santa Cruz public University of California campus in Santa Cruz

The University of California, Santa Cruz is a public research university in Santa Cruz, California. It is one of 10 campuses in the University of California system. Located 75 miles (120 km) south of San Francisco at the edge of the coastal community of Santa Cruz, the campus lies on 2,001 acres (810 ha) of rolling, forested hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

While working in his family's store, he "learned early on how to observe and listen to people, how to relate to others. It was good training for a writer." However, as a child, he thought of himself as a scientist and expected to become a chemist. "Like my father, I was fascinated by machines." His decision to become a writer did not come until he entered college at Marquette.

At Marquette, he met and became friends with the literary magazine editor, Joanne Ryder. She introduced him to children's literature and later asked him to write a book for children while she was working at Harper & Row. The result was his first science fiction novel, Sweetwater, published by Harper & Row in 1973. According to Yep, his relationship with Joanne began as friends and progressed into love (Yep, 1991). Yep and Ryder are married and live in Pacific Grove, California.

Pacific Grove, California City in California in the United States

Pacific Grove is a coastal city in Monterey County, California in the United States. The United States Census Bureau estimated its 2013 population at 15,504. Pacific Grove is located between Point Pinos and Monterey.


Laurence Yep's most notable collection of works is the Golden Mountain Chronicles, documenting the fictional Young family from 1849 in China to 1995 in America. Two of the series are Newbery Honor Books, or runners-up for the annual Newbery Medal: Dragonwings (Harper & Row, 1975) and Dragon's Gate (HarperCollins, 1993). Dragonwings won the Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association in 1995, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. [4] It won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award in 1976, and has been adapted as a play under its original title. Another of the Chronicles, Child of the Owl won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for children's fiction in 1977. (The Rainbow People, Yep's collection of short stories based on Chinese folktales and legends, was a Horn Book runner-up in 1989.)[ citation needed ]

Newbery Medal annual award for writing a childrens book published in the United States

The John Newbery Medal, frequently shortened to the Newbery, is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". The Newbery and the Caldecott Medal are considered the two most prestigious awards for children's literature in the United States. Books selected are widely carried by bookstores and libraries, the authors are interviewed on television, and master's and doctoral theses are written on them. Named for John Newbery, an 18th-century English publisher of juvenile books, the winner of the Newbery is selected at the ALA's Midwinter Conference by a fifteen-person committee. The Newbery was proposed by Frederic G. Melcher in 1921, making it the first children's book award in the world. The physical bronze medal was designed by Rene Paul Chambellan and is given to the winning author at the next ALA annual conference. Since its founding there have been several changes to the composition of the selection committee, while the physical medal remains the same.

<i>Dragonwings</i> 1975 novel by Laurence Yep

Dragonwings is a children's historical novel by Laurence Yep, published by Harper & Row in 1975. It inaugurated the Golden Mountain Chronicles (below) and it is the fifth chronicle in narrative sequence among ten published as of 2012. The book is used in school classrooms and has been adapted as a play under its original title. Yep and Dragonwings won the Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association in 1995, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. It had been a runner-up for the annual Newbery Medal.

The Phoenix Award annually recognizes one English-language children's book published twenty years earlier that did not then win a major literary award. It is named for the mythical bird phoenix that is reborn from its own ashes, signifying the book's rise from relative obscurity.

Yep wrote two other notable series, Chinatown Mysteries and Dragon (1982 to 1992). The latter is an adaptation of Chinese mythology as four fantasy novels.

The Dragon series is a tetralogy of fantasy novels by Chinese American author Laurence Yep. Yep had already written several books including the Newbery Honor novel Dragonwings by 1980, when, after undertaking careful research, he decided to adapt Chinese mythology into a fantasy form, something he had always wanted to do since he had sold his first science fiction story at 18. He "tried to stay true to the spirit" of these myths, but did not try "to keep their exact details". The "perfect vehicle" he chose was a folktale in which the Monkey King captured a river spirit who had flooded an entire city, which he at first tried to conceive in picture book form. However, he kept questioning the motivations of the river spirit, whom he had renamed Civet. This resulted in the realization, as his outline ballooned exponentially from eight to 800 pages, that he would need a series as opposed to just one book to tell her story.

In 2005 the professional children's librarians awarded Yep the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, which recognizes a living author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children". [1] The committee noted that "Yep explores the dilemma of the cultural outsider" with "attention to the complexity and conflict within and across cultures" and it cited four works in particular: Dragonwings, The Rainbow People, The Khan's Daughter, and the autobiographical The Lost Garden. [2]

A live-action/CGI TV movie of The Tiger's Apprentice, adapted by Finding Neverland writer David Magee, is currently being developed by Cartoon Network. [5]


Golden Mountain Chronicles

As of 2011 there are ten published chronicles spanning 1835 to the present. Here they are ordered by the fictional history and the year of the narrative follows the title; none of the titles includes a date.

  1. The Serpent's Children, set in 1849 (1984)
  2. Mountain Light, 1855 (1985)
  3. Dragon's Gate, 1867 (1993)
  4. The Traitor, 1885 (2003)
  5. Dragonwings, 1903 (1975)
  6. Dragon Road, 1939 (2007); originally The Red Warrior
  7. Child of the Owl, 1960 (1977)
  8. Sea Glass, 1970 (1979)
  9. Thief of Hearts, 1995 (1995)
  10. Dragons of Silk, 1835-2011 (2011)
Dragon (fantasy series)
  1. Dragon of the Lost Sea
  2. Dragon Steel
  3. Dragon Cauldron
  4. Dragon War
Star Fisher series
  1. The Star Fisher
  2. Dream Soul (sequel to The Star Fisher)
Chinatown Mysteries
  1. The Case of the Goblin Pearls
  2. The Case of the Lion Dance
  3. The Case of the Firecrackers
City trilogy
  1. City of Fire
  2. City of Ice
  3. City of Death
The Tiger's Apprentice
  1. The Tiger's Apprentice: Book One
  2. Tiger's Blood: Book Two
  3. Tiger Magic: Book Three
Ribbons (untitled group of books)
  1. Ribbons
  2. The Cook's Family (sequel to Ribbons)
  3. The Amah (companion novel)
  4. Angelfish (sequel to The Cook's Family)
Later, Gator (untitled group of books)
  1. Later, Gator
  2. Cockroach Cooties
  3. Skunk Scout
Mia St. Clair ( American Girl series)
  1. Mia
  2. Bravo, Mia!
Isabelle series
  1. Isabelle
  2. Designs by Isabelle
  3. To the Stars, Isabelle
  1. American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices (editor)
  2. The Lost Garden (autobiography, part of the In my own Words series)
Picture books
  1. The Magic Paintbrush
  2. The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty and the Beast Tale
  3. The Butterfly Boy
  4. The Shell Woman and the King: a Chinese folktale
  5. The Khan's Daughter: a Mongolian folktale
  6. The Ghost Fox
  7. The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes
  8. The Man who Tricked a Ghost
  9. The City of Dragons [6]
Other books
  1. Seademons
  2. Tongues of Jade
  3. The Rainbow People
  4. Sweetwater
  5. Hiroshima: A Novella
  6. The Earth Dragon Awakes: the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
  7. Lady of Ch'iao Kuo: Warrior of the South (part of The Royal Diaries series)
  8. The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung: A Chinese Miner (part of the My Name Is America series)
  9. Spring Pearl: The Last Flower (part of the Girls of Many Lands series)
  10. The Imp that Ate My Homework
  11. When the Circus Came to Town
  12. Kind Hearts and Gentle Monsters
  13. The Mark Twain Murders
  14. The Tom Sawyer Fires
  15. Shadow Lord (a Star Trek novel)
  16. Monster Makers, Inc.
  1. The Age of Wonders
  2. Dragonwings
  3. Pay the Chinaman (one-act)
  4. Fairy Bones (one-act)
  5. HI

See also

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Dragon of the Lost Sea is a fantasy novel by Chinese-American author Laurence Yep. It was first published in 1982 and is the first book in his Dragon series. Having already written several books, Yep had wanted to adapt Chinese mythology into a fantasy form for some time, and began writing the story in 1980 after undertaking careful research. He had originally intended to adapt a Chinese folktale in which the Monkey King captured a river spirit who had flooded an entire city, which he at first tried to conceive in picture book form.

<i>Dragon Steel</i> novel by Laurence Yep

Dragon Steel is a fantasy novel by Chinese-American author Laurence Yep. It was first published in 1985 and is the second book in his Dragon series. In Dragon Steel, Yep decided to expand on the dilemma faced by exiled dragon princess Shimmer, that of how to govern, since she had been exiled from the Inland Sea at a relatively young age by dragon standards. He based her on experiences on a study of historical rulers, both those who had ruled poorly, and those who had "risen to the expectations of their people". He also based the undersea dragon kingdom of Sambar XII on the "real ocean", inspired by the undergraduate courses in marine biology and oceanography he had taken at UC Santa Cruz. The story picks up where Dragon of the Lost Sea left off. Coming off their victory over the witch Civet, Shimmer and her human companion Thorn discover inner turmoil among the dragon kingdoms amidst increasing tensions between the humans and the dragons, gaining a new ally in the process.

<i>Dragons Gate</i> (novel) book by Laurence Yep

Dragon's Gate is a children's historical novel by Laurence Yep, published by HarperCollins in 1995. It inaugurated the Golden Mountain Chronicles below and it is the third chronicle in narrative sequence among ten published as of 2012.

<i>The Tigers Apprentice</i> book by Laurence Yep

The Tiger's Apprentice is a fantasy novel by Chinese-American author Laurence Yep. It was published in 2003 as the first in The Tiger's Apprentice trilogy. This story inserts ancient Chinese mythology into modern life in San Francisco. The story follows the boy Tom as he becomes the magical apprentice of the tiger Mr. Hu. Together with a band of mythological misfits, their job is to protect the ancient phoenix from Vatten and the Clan of Nine who wish to use its powers for evil. The story explores themes of kindness, loyalty, duty, and bravery.


  1. 1 2 "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  2. 1 2 "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Winner, 2005". ALSC. ALA. 2005. Archived from the original on 2006-01-04. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  3. Harper Collins, Laurence Yep Biography Archived 2007-11-21 at the Wayback Machine , accessed September 16, 2007
  4. "Phoenix Award Brochure 2012" [ permanent dead link ]. Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
    See also the current homepage, "Phoenix Award" Archived 2012-03-20 at the Wayback Machine .
  5. Nguyen, Hanh (2008-10-09). "Cartoon Network Mentors 'Tiger's Apprentice'". Zap2it. Tribune Media Services. Retrieved 2008-12-24.