Belle Yang (1960–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1960, in Taiwan; immigrated to United States, 1967. Education: Attended Stirling University (Scotland); University of California, Santa Cruz, B.S. (biology; with honors); attended Pasadena Art Center College of Design; attended Beijing Institute of Traditional Chinese Painting, 1986–89.
Agent—Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, 1155 Camino Del Mar, PMB 515, Del Mar, CA 92014.
Children's author and artist. Exhibitions: Works exhibited at Monterey Museum of Art, 1996; Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, 1997; and Orange County Museum of Art, 1997.
Baba: A Return to China upon My Father's Shoulders, preface by Amy Tan, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1994.
The Odyssey of a Manchurian, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1996.
Chili-Chili-Chin-Chin, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1999.
Hannah Is My Name, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Taiwanese-American author and painter Belle Yang is the author of a number of self-illustrated books, several of which relate stories about Yang and her family. In her first book, Baba: A Return to China upon My Father's Shoulders, she retells the tales her father, Baba, told to her about his life in Manchuria, China in the early twentieth century. The narrative opens with simple, fairy-tale-like stories about life in rural China that reveal the region's religious beliefs, holidays, and Confucian philosophy. "Beguiled by the musical cadence and bold strokes," Pam Lambert wrote in a review for People, readers "only slowly become aware of the underlying seriousness of Yang's dual story," which also encompasses the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in the early days of World War II and the atrocities that followed.
Yang continues her father's story in The Odyssey of a Manchurian. The formerly prosperous Yang family loses nearly everything in the civil war that follows World War II in China, and Baba, then seventeen years old, heads from northern China to the south, and eventually to Taiwan, seeking safety. "The story has the appeal of a fairytale hero's travails—as do the illustrations by the author," concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor.
Yang tells her family's story from her own perspective, in a somewhat fictionalized manner, in Hannah Is My Name. In this book Na-Lin's family moves from Taiwan to San Francisco in 1967, whereupon the girl—also the story's narrator—is renamed Hannah. Although Hannah enjoys her new life in San Francisco, her par-ents's days are far more stressful: they wait to receive their permanent residency and hope the U.S. immigration authorities will not catch them working illegally before their green cards arrive. "The tension is palpable," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, and, as Jennifer M. Brabander wrote in Horn Book, Yang's "deeply colored paintings match the strong emotions." School Library Journal reviewer Marian Creamer also praised Hannah Is My Name, noting that "the setting … as well as elements of Chinese culture are nicely evoked in both the text and artwork."
Yang is also the author and illustrator of Chili-Chili-Chin-Chin, a picture book for younger children about a
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determined little purple donkey and the boy who named it. The little boy is the only one whom Chili-Chili-Chin-Chin will allow to ride him, and together they go off on adventures, such as watching turtles and picking persimmons. Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin declared Yang's "slick, striking artwork in high-intensity colors" to be the main attraction in this title. Zvirin's sentiment was echoed by a Publishers Weekly contributor who praised Yang's "witty folk-art stylings and … exuberant sense of color."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Chili-Chili-Chin-Chin, p. 1956; September 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Hannah Is My Name, p. 255.
Horn Book, November-December, 2004, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of Hannah Is My Name, p. 704.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of Hannah Is My Name, p. 875.
People, December 19, 1994, Pam Lambert, review of Baba: A Return to China upon My Father's Shoulders, p. 66.
Publishers Weekly, August 22, 1994, review of Baba, p. 45; August 5, 1996, review of The Odyssey of a Manchurian, p. 419; April 26, 1999, review of Chili-Chili-Chin-Chin, p. 81.
School Library Journal, November, 2004, Marian Creamer, review of Hannah Is My Name, p. 120; April, 2005, review of Hannah Is My Name, p. S28.
Belle Yang Home Page, http://www.belleyang.com (April 8, 2006).