Laurence Yep

Presenting Laurence Yep
Laurence Yep is noted for creating vivid and complex characters based on his own experiences.
Yep’s most famous work is Dragonwings. It has won several awards, including the Newbery Honor for 1976, the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award for 1976, and the American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Book Award for 1975 (Johnson-Feelings 353). The story starts at the turn of the century when Moon Shadow moves to America to live with his father who he has never met. Moon Shadow\'s father, Windrider, is an expert kite maker, but he works in a laundry in San Francisco\'s Chinatown. The men there are a close group. None of them has been allowed to bring his wife over to the U.S. and so they have become a family in themselves. The first night Moon Shadow is in America, Windrider tells him of a dream he had several years before that told him he must learn to fly in this lifetime. Windrider explains that this is his main goal in life, second only to bringing his wife to the U.S. Moon Shadow and Windrider live as happily as can be expected in a highly racist city for a while, but when Uncle\'s opium-addicted son beats Moon Shadow until he\'s unconscious, things get tense. Windrider confronts Uncle\'s son and a group of his friends and in the fight kills a man. The two must leave Chinatown until the trouble has passed. They move into a white area, where Windrider gets a job as a handyman. It is dangerous for them to live in this area because Chinese-Americans are often killed in San Francisco at this time with no repercussions. Moon Shadow has to stay in the house when his father is away to avoid being hurt by the neighborhood boys. There are happy times though. The father and son become good friends with their landlord, Mrs. Whitlaw and her niece Robin. Moon Shadow often sits with them and exchanges stories of China for their stories of American life. Also, Windrider begins to experiment with models of airplanes so that he can master the basics of flight. When the 1906 earthquake hits, the family\'s world is shattered. Their home is destroyed and they must move to Golden Gate Park and camp out there until they can build a place to live. They reunite with the men from the laundry and together they all rebuild their business, but when the construction is finished, Moon Shadow and Windrider move across the Bay to Oakland so that Windrider can concentrate fully on building his airplane. Times are very hard for the father and son when they are working on the plane. They have little money for food and have to stretch to pay the rent each month. Finally the aircraft is finished and they are ready to fly it, but they have run out of money and have no way to get the plane to the top of the hills to launch it. Uncle and the men from the laundry come over though and they all help to haul the plane up the hill. Windrider launches the plane and manages to fly for twenty minutes before a bolt on the propeller comes loose and the plane crashes. Windrider is not seriously hurt. He decides though, that he no longer wants to concentrate on flying but would rather save money to bring his wife over to the U.S.
Growing up in a society that was nothing like his culture, Yep gained much insight from his surroundings. Yep was born in 1948. His father, Yep Gim Lew, was born in China and moved to America when he was ten. He married Franche Lee, an American born in Lima, Ohio. Yep lived in a black neighborhood, from which he took a bus to a Chinese school. He was made fun of for not speaking Chinese. His first encounter with whites wasn’t until high school. Yep’s alienation began at an early age because he came from a Chinese-American family, so in his mind, he wasn’t quite American. He didn’t want to be Chinese and believed that being Chinese was associated with the artificial and commercial “Asian-ness of Chinatown’s tourist-attracting store windows” (Johnson-Feelings, Lewis 401). In Dragonwings, Windrider treats