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Gene Luen Yang’s Reading Without Walls Challenge

In June I had the privilege of attending the American Library Association Annual Conference. Over 16,000 librarians all in one place! I loved it. One of the fantastic speakers I heard was Gene Luen Yang, award-winning graphic novelist, MacArthur Fellow, and the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Yang has created the Reading Without Walls Challenge, designed to encourage kids to read more diverse books. But you know what? Adults could surely take this challenge too – in fact, I think we might need it more! Take a look at Gene’s 3 challenges above. Could you do even one of them this summer? I’m going to! To that end, here are a few titles to consider, all of which come highly recommended by our staff.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – A young couple in an unnamed Middle Eastern country must flee their homes when civil unrest explodes into war. Although fictional, it offers a window into the refugee experience and what it’s like to be at the mercy of political events.




Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – In Noah’s autobiography, he discusses growing up with the legacy of apartheid in South Africa, with the related poverty, injustice, and violence. Funny and moving, this eye-opening book offers brilliant observations on South African culture.




Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – This 2006 graphic memoir addresses Bechdel’s childhood and her relationship with her father, an English teacher, funeral home director, and closeted homosexual. It addresses themes of sexual orientation, gender roles, and dysfunctional family life, and was made into a musical that ran on Broadway and won five Tony awards.




American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang – Yang explores what it was like growing up as a first-generation Chinese-American in this award-winning graphic novel. Melding Chinese folklore with modern experiences, this coming-of-age novel explores themes of cultural identity and self-acceptance in a humorous and profound way.


For more info on Reading Without Walls, see Gene Yang’s web site at

Categories: Books and More

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