Yellowface (Compact Disc)
June 2023 Indie Next List
“Equal parts modern satire, indictment of the publishing industry, and twisted ghost story, R. F. Kuang’s first foray into literary fiction pulls no punches and will have you reading late into the night.”
— Abby Bennsky, Old Town Books, Alexandria, VA
Most of the time I know exactly what I’m going to say about a book. This time I do not. R.F. Kuang has written a beautifully disastrous character that makes the reader think more in depth than most pieces of fiction-that-isn’t-literature will. This is a story that is going to consume you, and make you critically think about who and what the publishing industry is composed of. Everything considered, this book is coming out amidst a strike at HarperCollins (the publisher of this book) that calls for more diversity in the company and better base pay for all employees.
As someone who is white, and who is incredibly interested in being a part of the publishing industry in any way, shape, or form, this book hits in a way that I expected it to. It’s a critique of how the industry runs, from petty authors, to the not so obvious racism, to the intricate sides and faces it can portray. It blurs the lines between right and wrong, so much so, you didn’t want to root for the main character but it was hard to watch them what they saw as right and that’s the narrative you’re being fed. On the flipside, you KNOW that narrative is wrong. That's it's white entitlement at it's finest and most complicated. It makes you think about the online book world, a commentary nailing its painful and horrible bad side, while also showing how layered in truth it can be. I felt an odd amount of sympathy but absolute hatred and disgust with June Hayward. Especially within the last two pages. There is no way to talk about this book and describe exactly how it felt to read it. People need to experience it for themselves.
And it truly made me look inward at what I do, what I say, and what was being said by the book. It's not a story that's supposed to make you feel good. And I think everyone should read it, think about it, and talk about it.
White lies. Dark humor. Deadly consequences... Bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is, she didn't write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American--in this chilling and hilariously cutting novel from R.F. Kuang, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Babel.
Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena's a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.
So when June witnesses Athena's death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena's just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.
So what if June edits Athena's novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song--complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn't this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That's what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.
But June can't get away from Athena's shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June's (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface grapples with questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, as well as the terrifying alienation of social media. R.F. Kuang's novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable.