Yellowface | Rebecca F. Kuang

satire | contemporary | books by women

First published 2023

Book cover of Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang on blogandbooks spiral background

Junipur Song Hayward (June) is an aspiring white writer whose career has veered off-course. Her friend, Athena, on the other hand, who is Asian, has secured a six-figure deal straight out of college. The two women meet to celebrate Athena's new TV deal, and the pair end up back at Athena's apartment, drunk and hungry. Events take a tragic turn, leading to Athena's shocking death due to a pancake choking incident. Amid the shock and horror of her friend's untimely demise, June steals the manuscript Athena has been working on.

June re-works Athena's manuscript and sends it to her agent and publisher. The book is about Chinese migrant workers during the First World War, and it becomes an instant best seller and June the darling of the literary world. Her publisher has encouraged June to drop her last name and publish the novel under her first and middle names, Juniper Song, to appeal to a wider audience.

A social media shitstorm breaks out, and June is accused of cultural appropriation and plagarism and of stealing the stories of underrepresented minorities. The truth about her stealing Athena's manuscript is finally revealed, and the damage that trial by social media can have on an individual's mental health is a very prominent theme.

My Verdict: I found that the story tended to meander and the pacing had issues at some points. The descriptions of the publishing industry were not terribly interesting and neither were the characters. I think after reading such excellent satires such as, Glory, The Trees and The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, my expectations are quite high, and this novel really didn't live up to the hype surrounding it. The intention behind the title, "Yellowface" is to confront the issue of racial caricatures, but with the lack of context within the novel it fails to hit the mark. It sometimes feels like a clumsy attempt to make an important point, but without a more nuanced explorarion of the themes Kuang is looking to address, it comes off as a very one-dimensional look at racism and sexism in the publishing world.

Review Award | 3/5

Posted 28.08.2023

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