Born in Taiwan, Belle Yang spent part of her childhood in Japan. At age seven she emigrated to the United States with her family. She attended Stirling University in Scotland, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in biology but went on to study art at Pasadena Art Center College of Design and the Beijing Institute of Traditional Chinese Painting. She returned from China to the United States late in 1989 after the Tiananmen Massacre.
Yang is a painter and writer/illustrator of children's books, such as her series of Mandarin Chinese-English bilingual books. She made an illustrated book about a family of Taiwanese immigrants in San Francisco called 'Hannah is my Name' in 2004. In 2011 she told her family's history, against the background of the Japanese oppression and Chinese communism, in her graphic novel 'Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale'.