In his latest graphic novel, New York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches.
Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.
But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it's all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.
Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.
Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. As the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, he advocates for the importance of reading, especially reading diversely. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist. His other works include Secret Coders (with Mike Holmes), The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew), Superman from DC Comics (with various artists), and the Avatar: The Last Airbender series from Dark Horse Comics (with Gurihiru). In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. His most recent books are Dragon Hoops from First Second Books and Superman Smashes the Klan from DC Comics.
Yes, this book is about high school basketball. Yet, it is about so much more. It touches of race, religion, bias, and many other topics. Yang had no interest in basketball or any other sport when he began writing this. He was looking for a subject for his next project when he heard people talking about how good the basketball team was at the high school where he teaches. After meeting with his fellow teacher and head coach, he determined he wanted to focus on the Dragons' season even though he cared little about basketball.
Yang inserts himself into the book as narrator. So not only is it about basketball, but it's autobiographical as well. Throughout the season, he is fielding calls from DC Comics about taking over writing Superman. It provides some incite that most of the controversial things that happened during Yang's run were mainly DC editorial decisions and not his own.
I like how Yang gets sucked into to caring about the outcome of the game and rooting for the Dragons as the season progresses. You see through his eyes as he begins to understand what it is to become a fan of a sport and team. He also sits down and interviews many of the players and coaches. We get a view into their perspectives.
This was a fun and interesting read, even if you aren't into sports.
A huge--450 page+--graphic memoir by acclaimed cartoonist and computer science teacher Gene Luen Yang that takes us for the first time inside his life as father, cartoonist and teacher at a small California school where the basketball team seems poised to make a run for a state championship. Not that this historically would have meant anything to cartoonist Yang, since he had no interest in sports, but his students and a slight curiosity about the sport leads him to research the history of basketball as he follows his high school team's progress.
I think kids that like both sports and comics--people like I was as a kid and still am--will appreciate this book. I thought it was good, read fast, and one of the teens in this house liked it, too. We're Yang fans, have multiple copies of American Born Chinese--maybe his best book--around the house.
Part memoir, part biography, part history, part sports diary, Dragon Hoops is Gene Luen Yang’s story of several months charting the ups and downs of a high school basketball team. I tend to seek out Yang’s work, and would have read this regardless of its subject matter. Thank goodness I also enjoy basketball, and was able to appreciate the action in each game. I particularly liked the player profiles, and the slightly dorky humour and big heart Yang brings to this book.
Printz Honor 2021 ______ Basketball, basketball, basketball. History of basketball, sexism and racism in basketball, basketball in foreign cultures, one team's road to winning a state basketball championship. Some of this was interesting, but I thoroughly disliked the framing of it all, especially the author's insertion of his, frankly, trivial professional quandaries. No one cares about that. Well, I definitely don't care if Yang decides to write Superman comics or not. This story shouldn't have been so much about him.
In 2014, Gene Luen Yang finds himself stuck. He’s in a creative rut. He’s out of stories.
But as it turns out, fascinating and important tales abound. One happens to be at the very school where Yang works as a comp-sci teacher: the story of the Bishop O’Dowd High School basketball team in Oakland, and their coach (and former player), Lou Richie.
Dragon Hoops chronicles the real-life events of the 2014-2015 season for the O’Dowd Dragons. In the decades since the school's founding, the team had made it to California's State Championships eight times—never to win. In 2013-2014, they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of SoCal's Mater Dei Monarchs (their star player being none other than the Toronto Raptors' Stanley Johnson! I loved seeing Yang illustrate and tell about players I recognize).
But this will be the year they win State. It has to be: they're laying it all out on the floor this year.
Dragon Hoops merges Yang's autobiographical narrative with the stories of key figures on the Dragons team (coaches and players alike), all while shedding light on the history of basketball for men, women, immigrants, and the Black community.
“You have to know your past if you want to create a future, Yang.”
It tells the story of O'Dowd stars Ivan Rabb (ranked #1 in the state) and his best friend Paris Austin. It captures the banter between hooping sister-and-brother duo, Oderah and Arinze Chidom, both varsity players at O'Dowd. It delves into the history of Sikhs in America through the character of Jeevin Sandhu, starting point guard. It explores basketball's history in China via Alex Zhao, an international exchange student from China with dreams of someday playing in a professional league.
Throughout all of this, Dragon Hoops is very meta. Yang interweaves panels depicting his own process of stumbling into and ultimately writing this story. It opens with his avatar explaining, I've hated sports ever since I was a little kid. Especially basketball. Yet as he researches this story, interviewing Lou and all of the players, Yang finds himself falling in love with the sport and coming to understand it in a way he never thought he would.
In many ways, the basketball players at O'Dowd were not so different from the superheroes he's cherished all his life. And as Yang comes to terms with making a life-altering decision of his own, he finds solace in the momentous courage of the O'Dowd players he interviews (e.g., Jeevin Sandhu, who is Sikh, stepping into a Catholic school for the first time); the basketball stars he depicts (e.g., Yao Ming stepping off the plane in Houston); and the historical figures he renders (e.g., Senda Berenson stepping onto a court in 1896, moments away from teaching the first women to ever play basketball).
BOTTOM LINE: This graphic novel was a mashup of so many things I love. Stories of race and diaspora in America, a narrator who made me laugh at the most unexpected moments, and, of course, basketball. I was reminded time and again why I love this sport so much.
Much like the Michael Jordan documentary, 'The Last Dance,' this book is about so much more than basketball. Even if you are not a basketball fan, you will find this to be a worthwhile read. Yang himself became a basketball fan while writing and researching this book. There is basketball history, civil rights history, Sikh history, and much about the 2014-15 Bishop O'Dowd team and their quest to win the state tournament. The tag line: "From Small Steps To Great Leaps" from the cover is illustrated time and again with one character after another taking a step forward. Lots of people are looking forward to the NCAA tournaments returning this month. Read this book to understand why they love the sport so much.
Cartoonist/math teacher/father of four Gene Yang has never liked sports, but he loves stories. He's never paid much attention to the basketball teams at O'Dowd, the private Catholic high school where he teaches, but when he starts hearing people call the men's varsity teams' aim for State Championship "the story of the season" his ears prick up. Yang begins talking to the team couch, Lou Richie, who is also an O'Dowd alumni. He begins attending games and practices and interviewing the players. He starts reading about the development of basketball- a sport specifically designed to use little equipment and only a small space, not needing a grassy field for play. These factors made basketball accessible in a way baseball and American football often are not. Yet racism and exclusion have haunted basketball as well, and Yang talks about early black teams such as the Harlem Globetrotters, the prejudice against women's basketball, the racism faced by the first Chinese players to join the NBA. Despite himself, Yang is draw into the O'Dowd Dragon's 2014/2015 season as they chase a State Championship which the school has missed out on eight different times. This is an engaging and informative story which left me (another cartoonist with lukewarm feelings on sports) with a greater appreciation for the game. I read this 450 page book in under 24 hours!
Gene Luen Yang gives an outsider's look at basketball as he undertakes the effort to document in graphic novel format a possible championship season at the Catholic high school where he was teaching in 2013. But it's also a look at himself as the documentarian as his personal life intertwines in the subject and he finds themes and parallels between the two. Throw in frequent looks back at the history of basketball and you'll understand why this graphic novel is so darn thick.
I don't follow basketball at all, but I found myself drawn into the story of this team. Yang's own story is a bit less enthralling as it begins to circle around his decision to take over writing Superman (mostly because I wasn't a fan of his run on that title, though this book touches lightly on why it might not be as good as it could have been) and whether he should include a controversial figure from his school in this book.
Yang does a fairly decent job of justifying the insertion of himself into the book, but I am left wondering if it might have been better if he'd pulled back more strongly on the parts about his process and kept focus on the team.
Gene made me care about basketball! Truly the man has a gift!
This book contains stories within stories: the story of the game of basketball, the stories of the players of the Bishop O'Dowd basketball team during the year they were trying to win a championship, and the story of Gene Luen Yang, trying to find something to write about after fearing he was all out of ideas.
It was interesting, it was exciting, it was suspenseful, it covered a lot of topics: race, sportsmanship, talent, creativity.
I'd put off reading this one, even though I read/buy all the award-winners, mostly because I love Gene's books but don't care for basketball. Gene made me care about basketball!
Much like the Michael Jordan documentary, 'The Last Dance,' this book is about so much more than basketball. Even if you are not a basketball fan, you will find this to be a worthwhile read. Yang himself became a basketball fan while writing and researching this book. There is basketball history, civil rights history, Sikh history, and much about the 2014-15 Bishop O'Dowd team and their quest to win the state tournament. The tag line: "From Small Steps To Great Leaps" from the cover is illustrated time and again with one character after another taking a step forward. Lots of people are getting bit by the March Madness bug this month. Read this book to understand why they love the sport so much. *Reviewed by Darla from Red Bridge*
This was a fantastic book. I told my husband as I was reading, “I am a total nerd!”. I do love a good graphic novel. This one is big and so enjoyable. I laughed, I cried and I cheered these kids, this team and the coaches on. The author is a fantastic cartoonist and writer. I was very impressed!
Now, I am not a huge sports fan and definitely not a huge basketball fan. It is not a sport that I ever really enjoyed watching or playing. I am short, so that doesn’t help I guess. I tend to like fast paced sports and I guess more violent sports, like Ice Hockey, Football and Lacrosse. And I love racing, cars and especially motorcycles. So, why would I want to read a book called Dragon Hoops. Well, it was a graphic novel and I love graphic novels, so I went with it. I am so glad that I did!
Gene Luen Yang does a fantastic job writing a story that wells up emotions of all kinds. I laughed out loud and I teared up in different parts of this story. He adds in history of all sorts, not just the game of basketball, but history of the different cultures of the players, history of the school, the team and the coaches as well. He is honest about things that he sees and things that happen, such as racism, sexual abuse accusations and more. I learned a lot while reading this; I felt a lot while reading this.
The character development was fantastic. I loved learning about these students/players and coaches. I enjoyed learning of their heritage and getting to know their personalities. It was really great and I was pulling for them all along the way.
Yang takes you out of the players story and puts you into his life along the way as he deals with his own personal struggles and decisions. I LOVED this! It made a connection with the author that was unique. He is very like able and I enjoyed this aspect of the book. He also talks about what a terrible caricaturist he is several times. I would have to disagree with this. I think his art is fantastic and helps to endear the characters that much more.
This was a fantastic book and one that I would definitely recommend.
Full disclosure: I won a free copy of this hardcover in a Goodreads giveaway.
Gene Luen Yang was never much into sports. But, when pondering what his next comics project will be, he overhears students and faculty at the high school where he teaches enthusiastically discussing their basketball team's chances of becoming state champions, and that gives him an idea … The result is this fine graphic novel that shows the team's journey to the championship game, Yang's journey toward understanding the appeal of sports, and a history of the game of basketball itself.
I've been a fan of Yang's work for some time now, and I was overjoyed when this book arrived in the mail. It's an imposing, hefty thing, and I love the textured basketball design of the cover. As physical objects go, it's quite beautiful.
It reads well too. Yang knows how to tell a good story. Some aspects were fictionalized--he goes into detail about it in the Notes section at the back of the book--but only some dialog and characters, not actual events. The repeated motif of taking a step forward started to mildly annoy me. It's a good idea, but the way it's executed calls a little too much attention to itself. I wouldn't consider it a flaw, I suppose, but it did briefly jar me out of the story each time. Probably it's just me.
Dragon Hoops is a fine book, well worth reading. Highly recommended!
It has taken me an age to get this finished, not because it was not to my taste, but because I kept being distracted by other shiny books and it kept being ignored. How terrible, because this book is very good. Interesting indeed, you'll learn the history of basketball. You'll learn about the history of China, about Ghandi and why he isn't universally loved. You'll learn so very much and you'll become invested in an underdog high school basketball team despite any misgivings you might have. Gene Luen has written a really huge graphic novel which does a lot of things, but it never loses your heart and you remain invested in his quest to understand the obsession fans have for the sport.
This is huge, it has depth and breadth and it is fantastic.
An extraordinary book. I just finished it and am a puddle of tears (and also not a sports-watcher or fan). This is a graphic novel about basketball—one real hs basketball team in Oakland—, but it's also about history, about race and culture, gender in athletics, high school kids/friends, the way adults have an impact on young people, the author's search for meaning through story, and, at its core, the courage to care deeply about something you love and the people you love too. The courage to step.
I learned so much from reading this, but I also couldn't put it down for its suspense, drama, inventive storytelling, heart, and pure genius.
Gene Luen Yang tells the true story of the attempt of the basketball team at the high school where he works to win the state championship in this new graphic novel, Dragon Hoops. In the process, he also explores racism in sports, the history of basketball, and the individual struggles of those on the team. And he somehow manages to also intertwine the story of the basketball team with his own personal struggles to combine his work as a teacher with that of his work as a graphic artist and his desire to be a good dad and husband.
Man, I loved this story! I want to tell someone to go read it. Now. Would you do that for me?
This has been hanging out on my virtual shelf, half read for a month. The first half took me three weeks to get through, and why wasn't I loving it? There was a lot I liked: the recurring Step (until Yang pointed it out). The biographical material was great: there aren't a lot of sports stories told by non-jocks. Plus the way Yang's childhood experience of racism flows naturally into his perception of it in the sport. The decision to address racism head on was a strong choice. The adult biographical stuff was interesting too. The public at large doesn't realize that the vast majority of writers don't earn enough to live on, so good public service. Plus including the family was cute and fun.
This morning Libby notified me that my borrow time was almost up, so I figured maybe I could finish. It sucked me in and I managed to finish before work. It was zipping along pretty well when Yang's wife came to chat with him. She says something like "I'm not real" and turns into Yang who stops to break the fourth wall and explain why he left the former lauded coach out. Then after explaining, and trying to be neutral on it, he lets the new coach of the men's team give a strong and supportive message, the gist of which is how a single, unidentified former student made an accusation of assault after more than 30 years, and no one else had a bad word to say, but now the guy is a pariah, his life and legacy tarnished, blah, blah, blah, no one else ever had a doubt, never saw anything, the usual.
Then we move on to the big game, everyone is there, the women's team that won the state championship the day before is all there, and families, faculty, staff, ESPN, it's huge.
It wasn't until jotting down a first draft of the review that I got what bugged me. We've been through all of missed family stuff, and his job angst and all, which he frequently discusses with his wife. But she's not real. We don't know anything about her. Just as we know absolutely nothing about the women's team except they also won. Maybe they always do, maybe it was a fluke: the only thing we know is they won and turned out to support the men. The author included his wife and kids and a state-championship-winning women's team and failed the Bechtel test. The women got to be supportive to the men and otherwise returned to the void.
It's not that an author has to give equal time or whatever, it's that he was doing such a great job trying to address the racism, but he failed the intersectionalism. Turns out I was bored because he wasn't talking to me.
He's a good writer and a well-meaning guy, so maybe he'll do better next time. I'm willing to see.
I don’t know how this wasn’t on my read list. 🤷🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️ I read it while my kids were reading in class one day. I loved it. Beautiful art. Beautiful story. Beautiful message. Loved it and loved giving it to students to read.
Gene Luen Yang, the author of the Michael L. Printz Award-winning graphic novel American Born Chinese, is back with his magnum opus and a true masterpiece. Dragon Hoops tells the semi-autobiographical story of the author, a high school teacher in California, and the school’s basketball team, the Dragons. They have not won the California State Championships in decades and the Dragon’s coach feels that this will be their year to take home the trophy. Inspired, Yang follows them along their journey getting to know the student-athletes and learning about the sport he was never particularly fond of. This substantial graphic novel, coming in at over 400 pages, is about more than just basketball. It is a story with so much heart and grit providing a glimpse into the lives of the author and student-athletes while discussing the topics of race and micro-aggressions. Like the author, I was not the biggest sports fan but became engrossed with this story. I was truly on the edge of my seat during the California State Championships game, down to the very last second on the clock. *swish* -Jenny L.
*I received a free e-arc of this title provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Listen. I enjoy watching basketball but would I pick up a book about basketball?....🤷♀️ Not usually.
But! This book is 1. A graphic novel and I ❤️ graphic novels! 2. It’s by Gene Luen Yang!
Yang, a nerd after my own heart, who had never imagined writing a book about basketball won me over quickly with a good balance of basketball and personal stories of the players, the coach, and their interactions with each other.
Yang also includes himself in parts of the story, which adds to the humor and was a really fun addition that we don’t typically get to see in graphic novels.
This is a fabulously different graphic novel and I believe it would be a great entry point into graphic novels for for readers who may be new to the genre. By combining a mix of a true story, fictional changes, sports, and biographical pieces, it really appeals to a wide audience!
We will definitely be purchasing this for our library!
A basketball story that even non-basketball fans will enjoy! A graphic novel story for teens who believe the last good graphic novel they read was Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants or Dog Man! A sports story for high schoolers looking for that genre, or for those looking for something for their narrative nonfiction reading! There's a lot to like in this latest graphic novel by the talented and two time NBA (National Book Award) nominee, Gene Luen Yang. It's the story of the Bishop O'Dowd Dragons 2014-15 basketball team's trip to the California High School Championship. Not only about the players and coaches of the team, Gene himself is a character in this story who is at a crossroads in his own career. Can chronicling the history of a high school basketball team help him make decisions about his own future?
Like Yang I am not a sports fan, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this true-life look at one high school basketball team's struggle to win a championship. I've always enjoyed Gene's clean, crisp art style, and the story is so involving, you won't even notice the massive page count.
This was very wholesome. I have been a fan of Gene Luen Yang's work for a while now, and I try to read all of his graphic novels (I have given up on his superhero comics work; there is too much of it). So when the Read Harder Challenge said I had to read a nonfiction YA comic, I was excited to finally be able to fit this one in.
Dragon Hoops is a memoir of Yang's time shadowing the Bishop O'Dowd High School basketball team as they try to finally win the California State Championship (Yang taught math there for seventeen years before he left to pursue comics writing full-time). Yang was and is a nerd who has never been interested in sports before, but something about the chatter in the school halls (and as he confesses in the notes at the back of the book, his son joining his school's basketball team) leads him to ask the coach, Lou, if he can shadow them to see if the team's experiences would make a good book. And he soon realizes they will.
It's fun watching Yang experience sports for the first time, and in such an up close and personal way. He talks to all the team coaches, and as many players that are willing, to understand why they are on the team and what it means to them, among many other things. The book covers the full basketball season. Along with Yang's experiences and that of the players and coaches, we also get intermittent chapters on the history of basketball, all of which were really fun. Yang has a good time poking at critics of progress and change in the sport (which of course reflects the progress in society at large). He has a running gag of old historically contemporary white men doing commentary:
Yang's style is very understated, but he uses that understated style to effectively tackle the issues of race and class and sexism that crop up for the kids whose stories he's following. Two particular team members, a South Asian Punjabi named Jeevan and a Chinese kid who goes by "Alex" in America because most American can't pronounce his real first name, Qianjun. Every now and then Yang gets roped into the casual racism as well.
But while that stuff is important to the story, the main feature here is the team and the game, and what it means for them to strive to be the best, and what happens when they are (or aren't).
Read Harder Challenge 2022: Read a nonfiction YA comic.
I went into this book not knowing anything about it and was pleasantly surprised. I don't care about basketball even a little bit, but Yang didn't either. I thoroughly enjoyed going along with him and his journey with this high school team. The book is incredibly layered and rich in its drawing of connections between art and sport. It is very meta in places, yet it works rather than just seeming like an exercise in pretentiousness.
Gene Yang never thought he'd write a basketball book. But when that's what all the kids at the high school where he teaches were talking about their basketball team, Yang investigated to see if there was a story there.
A super basketball team that had never won a state championship, despite playing in the championship game many years. Could this be their year? Yang intersperses the team's story with his own personal story of taking steps forward into the unknown. As he worked on the book, he wrestled with the difficult decision whether to quit his beloved teaching job and write full time. That might sound like a story only an adult audience can appreciate, but Yang treats his teen subjects with such respect and honesty that this truly is a teen book with huge crossover potential.
Not only a self-deprecating memoir of Yang's learning curve with basketball and the changes that he and the team go through, this is an action-packed sports story and the book dips its toe into sports history, as well. Sports fans will definitely appreciate this book, but there's a lot for the nerdy quiet kids who don't care about basketball, too.
Press this into the hands of kids who enjoyed ATTUCKS by Phillip Hoose.
I LOVE THAT THE COVER IS TEXTURED LIKE A BASKETBALL.
Yang is great. Solid. A wonderful cartoonist, graphic novelist. I always enjoy his stuff.
This book chronicles one season in basketball at the school where Yang taught for many years. We learn a little bit about most of the players, basketball in general, the school in general, but the most memorable (for me) interwoven element was Yang's personal story. This was a pivotal year in his teaching career.
Yang is diligent in his stewardship of the material. He includes 8ish pages of small-font notes in the back. His perspective as a non-basketball person (before he embarked on this experience) gives him an interesting vantage point on the game, politics, and assumptions of the featured story. He tells the story with his recognizable, masterful, full-color illustration style.
I found it engrossing and enjoyable.
All that said, I'm not entirely sure what teen to sell it to. I feel like the teens who are into basketball might be interested, but there's so much of the intro stuff...
That said, as a comic reader/youth librarian, I ate this up and have raved about it to many of my peers.
Finished this with tears streaming. I almost never watch actual sports, but give me a solid, if predicable, sports movie and I'm all there. With HOOP DREAMS, I never felt I was being led to the safe, predicable ending. Yang kept me invested in the whole team and the school all the way through. His pacing was fantastic and I loved the asides of basketball history.