Asian Author Puts on Whiteface to Write Amazing Yellowface Book

Yellowface, a 2023 novel by R.F. Kuang, is a biting commentary on the book publishing industry and a propulsive thriller that gives us a lesson on cultural appropriation, diversity, equity, and inclusion run amok through the voice of a white woman as written by an Asian woman. And it’s fantastic. 

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang is the hot book of 2023.

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Amazon description of the book;

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.

Pandan is part of an important scene in Yellowface. It turns out that it’s a real thing. Pandan is a powder or extract that can be used in baking; It tastes like vanilla, flowers, and herbs. It turns the batter slightly green.

For those who love to read books, there are many reasons for doing so. Some love to read what’s new and “in.” Some read to learn something new. Some love to read to have something interesting to talk about during their next dinner out. If any of these reasons resonate with you, read Yellowface. This book was exciting and timely; you’ll learn much about the publishing industry. 

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The author of this book is Asian, young, and intelligent. She’s won many awards and seems to resemble the character Athena she killed off in her book. Where this book gets fascinating is what she does with the main character, who is white. The fact that this author chose to write from the point of view of a white person made this fascinating and clever. One of the things you hear a lot these days is that white people shouldn’t write about characters who are different races than they are. 

By using whiteface to write her Yellowface story, this author manages to explain why telling people whom they can and can’t write about is hypocritical while explaining concerns about cultural appropriation and how diversity can both help and hurt you. She describes how maybe you’ll get published because you’re an Asian author, but then you may be pressured to write specific stories and stay in that one lane. Then when another Asian female author presents something to the same publishing company, that person may be told they already have an Asian author. In other words, diversity may be narrower than we realize. 

Yellowface will give you food for thought and a new, delicious recipe for Pandan pancakes.

Read this book for your book club, or read it to have some deep dinner conversations. This one will make you think. 

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