Authors Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham speak at BHS library  


On Friday, Feb. 9 2024, Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham came to Berkeley High School to discuss their new book, “Lunar New Year Love Story.” 

“Lunar New Year Love Story” is a young adult romance novel, centered around the traditions of the Lunar New Year and the importance of love.

“I want them to understand that love comes in so many different forms, it’s love from friends, love between a boy and a girl, love between family, love between generations, and then most importantly, love for yourself, and to be not afraid of love,” said Pham.

Pham began the presentation with a brief introduction to the Lunar New Year, discussing the holiday’s significance to the Asian community. According to Pham, the Lunar New Year doesn’t simply signify the beginning of a new year. In Asian culture, it’s the most important of all the holidays. It’s a fresh start, where debts are repaid and conflicts are forgiven.

“When the new year starts, everything starts over,” said Pham.  

In the speech, Pham said that the new year is a time to honor your ancestors. Families may create altars with photos of their deceased relatives and place offerings like food, incense, and flowers in front of the photos. These offerings are meant to entice one’s ancestors down from the heavens to bless their house for the coming year.

Another key part of Lunar New Year celebrations are red envelopes. Red envelopes were so important to Yang’s New Year celebrations as a kid that he wanted to make them a big deal in “Lunar New Year Love Story,” as well.

“I knew that when I started writing ‘Lunar New Year Love Story’ I wanted to make (red envelopes) a big deal in the story. So in this story, the red envelope is the inciting incident,” said Yang.

Yang and Pham went on to talk more about their new book, discussing the many elements that went into making the story romantic, as well as funny. The talk ended with a brief Q&A, where questions ranged from how to get published to what their net worths were. The authors were able to stay for a short time after the talk, letting students get autographs and quick drawings of themselves from Pham.

“I was so touched by how many kids wanted (Yang’s) autograph, and were, like, genuinely star-struck by him … It was cool to meet an author in person and have him be so youth-friendly, and funny, and cool,” said Zia Grossman-Vendrillo, a freshman English teacher at BHS who brought her class to the discussion.

According to Grossman-Vendrillo, the impact of books like Yang’s “American Born Chinese” is why it’s so important to read books by authors from historically marginalized groups.“I think the power of hearing stories from your own community can make you feel so seen,” said Grossman-Vendrillo.

Meredith Irby and Allyson Bogie, two of BHS’ librarians, also really believe in the power of seeing yourself in books. 

“Librarians always talk about books as windows and mirrors … It’s incredibly important for our students to see themselves in the books that they read … (and) to read about lived experiences that are very different from their own,” said Irby.