Yellowface was brilliant and the satire was on point. The plot read like a runaway train where things went completely off the rails towards the end. I couldn’t get enough of this book and read it in a few sittings. Yellowface by R.J. Kuang is sharp, witty, and timely. Racism in the publishing industry is alive and well. Hell, racism everywhere is alive and well. Kuang holds nothing back, writing a story that isn’t that farfetched from what really does (and has) happened in the book world. How many times has the alarm been sounded on an author telling a story that isn’t theirs to tell or authors being accused of plagiarism. Sadly, these calls to actions do not happen often enough to make a lasting impact, but books like Yellowface remind me to keep fighting the good fight, i.e. READ #OWNVOICES BOOKS.
Young authors June Hayward and Athena Liu met at Yale, both aspiring writers hoping to one day have their work published by one of the big five publishers. After a night of drinking, Athena dies due to a freak accident and June steals Athena’s current manuscript, publishing it under her new pen name, Juniper Song. June justifies her actions to herself as she skyrockets to fame in the author realm. Soon her paranoia gets the best of her as her house of cards comes crumbling down.
Yellowface is written in first-person from June’s perspective, which gives the reader the feeling of being inside June’s head. I loved that aspect because June’s decision turns into her justifying her poor decisions, rationalizing racism and cultural appropriation, and June defending herself until the bitter end. When I say it felt like a runaway train, it really did. You hop on that ride and hang on for dear life as the story derails. I could not get enough.
It opens up such a great conversation on history, specifically that around marginalized communities, and who should share those stories. June rationalizes and justifies why she is the best person to tell Athena’s story, while omitting the fact she is a white woman who stole an Asian woman’s manuscript. Omitting the truth is still a lie and that fact resonates throughout the book. It was so cringy and good. Yellowface reminded me in so many ways of Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour and The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, in the sense that the racism is so blatant and in your face. If you haven’t read either of those books, I highly recommend them both. The Other Black Girl is also set in the publishing world and many elements of the story are similar to what Kuang brings out in Yellowface.
This book is B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T. Period.
“This industry is built on silencing us, stomping us into the ground, and hurling money at white people to produce racist stereotypes of us.”
Read Yellowface if you liked:
*Click on the title links to read my full review*
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris