Holt Elements of Literature
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Author Biography

Laurence Yep

(1948–    )

Laurence Michael Yep has written dozens of books for children and young adults, ranging from science fiction to historical fiction. In addition, Yep has written plays and novels for adults. He has won many awards, including the Newbery Honor Book award for Dragonwings (1975).

Yep was born in San Francisco, California, to a Chinese American family. As a native of San Francisco, Yep experienced many different sides of American culture. In addition to having a Chinese heritage, he grew up among many African American neighbors, and later he attended a mostly white high school. These experiences gave Yep an in-depth understanding of being an outsider—a topic that he explores in many of his books.

Yep’s best-known novel for young adults is Dragonwings, which recounts the attempts of a Chinese American to build a flying machine in 1909. This novel, based on a true story, also contains a word picture of San Francisco at the beginning of the twentieth century. Yep has written many other novels that explore Chinese American, Chinese, and even Japanese experiences, but he is also well known for his mysteries and fantasies. In some of his mystery novels, Yep uses a young Mark Twain as a detective. In his fantasy Dragon series, Yep follows the adventures of Shimmer, a dragon princess, and uses Chinese legends as the backdrop to the stories.

Yep has recently published more books that explore his Chinese heritage, such as Spring Pearl: The Last Flower (2002), part of the Girls of Many Lands series, and Lady of Ch’iao Kuo: Warrior of the South, Southern China, a.d. 531 (2000), part of The Royal Diaries series. Other recent books are Cockroach Cooties (2001), which describes two brothers’ experiences with a bully; and the first book of a series, The Tiger’s Apprentice: Book 1 (2003), a fantasy story about a young apprentice in the magical arts who has adventures in a world where Chinese mythology is real.