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Yellowface: The instant #1 Sunday Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick from author R.F. Kuang

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This industry is built on silencing us, stomping us into the ground, and hurling money at white people to produce racist stereotypes of us.’ What Worked: SO MUCH OF THIS BOOOK WORKED! I’ve seen the countless criticisms of Kuang inserting herself too much into this book as well as the criticisms that indicate that there isn’t much to be gained from reading this book. I wholeheartedly disagree. Oh, my friends, there is much to be gained. Neither of the characters is likeable and that is INTENTIONAL. This isn’t a way to illustrate that everyone in publishing is selfish, but a means to question how much the reader falls into the trap of engaging with the model minority myth. The expectation that Athena is supposed to be likeable is deeply woven in the sociological phenomena that stereotypes many Asian communities as successful, smart, likeable, diligent, docile, etc and the idea that Athena doesn’t fit into that role has made some readers feel uncomfortable whether it is consciously or subconsciously. I found this issue of plagiarism particularly ironic because Yellowface didn't strike me as very original, essentially a mashup of The Plot by Jean Hanoff Korelitz and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum. Furthermore, RF Kuang had a scene in The Poppy War (published 2018) where the main character was training by carrying a pig up a mountain. and that’s my final problem with yellowface. it has a decent plot, interesting cast of characters, interesting themes and discussions, but my only feeling on the ending was, ‘…that’s it?’ i know i said i wouldn’t do quotes, but im making an exception for the bit where our narrator says, ‘I’ve written myself into a corner. The first two thirds of the book were a breeze to compose, but what do i do with the ending? Where do I leave my protagonist, now that there’s no clear resolution?’ Which is very meta, because based off the ending, i feel that’s the position rfk was in at that exact point. i can somewhat tell she struggled with where to take the ending and i have more thoughts on why i felt underwhelmed by it, but i guess that’ll be for 2023, for when it's no doubt on all the 'Very Important Books of the Year' lists. for now, i can see myself rereading babel and parts of tpw, but i don’t see myself rereading yellowface. I also think this book does open up important conversations. Yes, at times it makes its point bluntly/crudely and in an obvious way, though through this satire Kuang raises deeper questions too, such as whether anyone can remain truly ethical or generous in a brutally capitalist publishing industry. I liked how Kuang didn’t make Athena a perfect character because by doing so, she highlights how people of color can engage in problematic and oppressive practices too.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang - Goodreads Editions of Yellowface by R.F. Kuang - Goodreads

The appropriation of history, the historicization of the past, the narrativization of society, all of which give the novel its force, include the accumulation and differentiation of social space, space to be used for social purposes.’June is asked to speak on panels, go to book clubs, and mentor student writers. When the aforementioned people learn she is not Chinese, heads begin to roll. June does not take this in stride. She thinks she is entitled to write Chinese stories, because she "did research." Do we remember the American Dirt debacle? I do. I won't touch that book with a ten foot pole. It's not a matter of who can tell what stories. (Well, it is, but no matter.) It's that a white woman received a seven figure advance telling the trauma stories of a marginalized group that will never see a cent of that. Where are the stories from actual undocumented immigrants? No one in any famous book club will ever read those.

Yellowface: A Novel Paperback – Large Print, August 15, 2023 Yellowface: A Novel Paperback – Large Print, August 15, 2023

She’s using the pen name Juniper Song to pretend to be Chinese American. She’s taken new author photos to look more tan and ethnic, but she’s as white as they come. June Hayward, you are a thief and a liar. You’ve stolen my legacy, and now you spit on my grave.” I texted a friend afterwards that this film, based on the novel Le otto montagne by Paolo Cognetti, was “Elena Ferrante, but for the boys”. It’s an easy comparison, but here are a few obvious overlaps: childhoods in Italy across an urban and rural divide; difficult, messy friendships where the power dynamics are always shifting; and figures who continue to define us throughout our lives, no matter how far we think we’ve escaped their influence or the influence of our past selves. 4. Classical The ensuing story is told in such an unreliable, insidious way that it creeps under your skin. What’s so scary is that it’s 100% believable. You can follow June’s descent into worse and worse offenses (though she started out pretty damn bad), while at every step the reader is trapped in her head as she justifies why she is the one in the right, the victim. It all boils down to self-interest…If publishing is rigged, you might as well make sure it's rigged in your favor.’ Sustaining the fraud in the eye of the storm requires ever more manic deception – and self-deception. After all, didn’t Juniper simply midwife a far-from-ready draft that might otherwise never have seen daylight? And in the first place, hadn’t Athena once strip-mined sensitive details of Juniper’s personal life for an early short story? And it’s so hard for white writers to catch a break these days…

But as evidence threatens June’s stolen success, she will discover exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves. Bona fide stars’: Victoria De Angelis and Damiano David of Måneskin on stage at Lollapalooza, 2022. Photograph: Scott Legato/Getty Images R. F. Kuang doesn't speak with or to you when she writes, she HAUNTS you. It takes a genius to achieve that. On the other hand, Athena is harder to grasp. You really need to have the whole picture with her, which you only get by reading the book till the end. I loved the way RFK slowly built her character. You only read about her from June's perpective when she's already dead and still she comes through as the main character, not less because June is literally obsessed with her. Well-written toxic friendships are my bread and butter and the one in here was one of my favorites. The way it was dealt with: nothing less of spectacular. I found June's morality to be the most interesting aspect of this book, but the relationship between her and Athena comes in second for sure.

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang – a wickedly funny publishing Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang – a wickedly funny publishing

But when I read Babel: An Arcane History for the first time last year, I was absolutely floored. It's not the kind of book an author can write for their debut. Such a glaring take on anticolonialism was hated by many. You know who. Not that I need to look at myself even more harshly than I already do, but it made me do that. I really enjoyed being inside June’s head, as morally ambiguous as it was. This worked particularly well on audio as the narrator nailed June. This is clever, smartly written satire, and the author was able to drive her point home in a non-preachy way with snark and humor. The plot, the flawed characters, and the writing - all superb! Read only if you enjoy satire and snark. it's certainly well-written, but personally i didn't like the writing style or the narrative voice. i know rfk intended the characters to be unlikeable, but i did not root for them at any point of the book. i was irritated most of the time, so i can't really say that i enjoyed reading this. i've read my fair share of books peopled with unlikeable characters, but this one here is just unbearable and repetitive. it got so boring the last third of the book that i had to take a nap before continuing.Have you ever read a book that is so timely and effective in its message that you do not feel the slightest bit qualified to review it? That your thoughts on such a masterpiece are not even worthy of being put to paper, literally or figuratively, because they are trite, vapid, and banal in comparison to the quality of the text being discussed? That’s how I feel trying to put the proverbial pen to paper with my thoughts on Yellowface. I’ll be honest, I read this book in a single sitting. I could not look away, and Kuang’s writing sweeps you up in it’s conversational cadance. While I’ve enjoyed Kuang’s writing previously, Yellowface feels very polished and matured, the novel reading with the ease and eagerness of a tell-all memoir, which is the framing of the story. As a fictional memoir, it drops a lot of pop culture references to key into a specific time. Kuang’s choice of perspective through June—who rebrands at the request of her publisher as Juniper Song, Song being her middle-name but also nudges readers to think she may have Chinese heritage—is brilliant as it allows us to feel the floor-dropping-out discomfort of becoming the focus of internet rage as well as navigate a vigorous criticism of the publishing industry. Kuang is able to cover issues without moralizing, making the reader sift through alternating opinions that are likely to expose their own assumptions and discomforts, and we must always remember the telling is often guiding us away from judging her and towards everyone else. With a big confession at the center, June can manipulate the reader on smaller issues and in a way it becomes a rather metafictional approach to the way storytelling is just that: fictionalizing stories.

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