Welcome to another book review!

I read yellowface a while ago and it is one of those books that just stick with you long after you have read them.

I hope you find this review enjoyable.


I think it can be said that I am a huge R.F. Kuang fan and so far she has not disappointed me. This book takes on the publishing industry and book lovers in general, from the people who write the books to those who read and review them (like myself). It explores racism, tokenism, plagiarism, online bullying, loneliness, fear, white-rage, and storytelling (is research all you have to do to write a book?).

This book is told from the perspective of Junie Hayward, a young female writer who decided to steal her dead ‘friend’ Athena Liu’s manuscript and published it has her own. Simple enough concept, but I think there is something a bit insidious that I overlooked while reading this book. Because it is told from Junie’s POV, it is selective of what we actually get to see written on the pages (I mean even at the end she (Junie) decides to write a tell all memoir – which I think this book is). Imagine this, her so called friend just died beside her choking on uncooked pizza, but she still had the mind about her to go into her room, steal and hide a hefty manuscript. How did she manage to leave the apartment that was crawling with emergency workers and the police with it, without being checked. She seemed to have gotten out of the whole situation rather easily. The fact that the book did not talk much about it, suggests that it didn’t happen, if that is not white woman privilege, I don’t know what is.

Then let’s go on to her trying to make it seem like her first book was so good but flopped because she was not diverse. Girl, you book just was not that interesting, get over yourself. If only she was self-aware enough to realise that when she sent in Athena’s work as her own she was picked up and given a huge deal. It had nothing to do with her race but with the quality and content of the work. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the diversity checks that a lot of companies do right now, so that they seem to care about equality. That is why they asked her to publish it under the name Juniper Song with a racially ambiguous bio picture. All they care about is their bottom like, cash influx, which is why even when she was accused of plagiarism she wasn’t dropped because twitter hate leads to exposure and exposure leads to higher sales.

Athena Liu was by no means a good person just like everyone else she was flawed and human. But there were certain times were Athena seemed absolutely cannibalistic. Siphoning people’s trauma for her creative process without crediting them, and because this was rewarded by its reception in the publishing and reading spheres, she did not feel the need to change. You could almost argue that some of the stories she wrote was also not hers to tell and she was just like Junie. I guess birds of a feather flock together! Nonetheless, I do think Junie and Athena were friends because they understood each other even if they had to be pretending for most of it.

I will be honest, I did sympathize with Junie sometimes. And I don’t mean in the white-woman-tears-woe-is-me kind of way, but that it must have hurt that her only success came of the back of Athena Liu (sure she brought that on herself, but it must have been devastating to realise that the industry already decides who will be popular and who wouldn’t). Evident with the success of her third book which seemed, at least to me, similar to her first book that flopped (in themes). Also when she was tormented online by Candice, I pitied her a bit BUT not enough to forget all she did! I mean this lady manipulated Athena’s mother too!

Now don’t get me wrong, unlike Babel, this book is not perfect. I felt like Kuang knew very little about failure in the literary space that she was unable to bring about the emotions that Junie must have felt. I have experienced failure so many times that even when Kuang made it seem like whiny self obsession on Junie’s part, I could not help but disagree. Junie’s emotions with regards to her failed first work were not properly dissected and sure it could mean that Junie lacked introspection but I do not think that is the case.

This book is an engrossing satirical thriller, filled with dark humour, discussions on privilege, twitter commentary and dire consequences of plagiarism. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to see what else R.F. Kuang writes.


I gave this a 4.3 out of 5 stars

Thanks for reading.

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