Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang: A Trail of Deceptions

Sayantan Ghosh
Sayantan GhoshNov 17, 2023 | 17:28

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang: A Trail of Deceptions

Someone wrote on the internet that this book is the cringiest thing they’ve read in quite a while, but like it is with all good cringe material they couldn’t resist it or put it down.

And they aren’t entirely wrong, even though the writing is unhesitatingly brisk and wacky through its entire runtime. After all, who doesn’t like a biting and juicy publishing satire that’s also a delightful, engrossing cringefest!


Yellowface has become a global bestseller since it released in May 2023, and I’m certain a film adaptation is already on the cards. The logline is simple – June (a white woman) and Athena (June’s Asian American friend) went to Yale together, both became writers, but while Athena became an overnight literary star, June’s debut faded into redundancy without much fanfare, turning her into – every writer’s worst nightmare – a midlist author.

Then fate steps in, and a freak accident later June manages to steal an early draft of Athena’s much-awaited new manuscript, reworks it, and publishes it as her own. And all of this happens within the first forty pages of the novel.

Kuang gets the inner workings of the publishing industry so spot on, that I often felt seen myself while turning the pages of Yellowface. The way June both worships and envies Athena at once will be relatable for anyone who’s ever been around a friend unquestionably brighter than them.


“Athena was dazzling,” says June. “She was larger than life. Untouchable. Looking at her was like looking at the sun. She was so brilliant that it hurt to stare for too long.” Kuang makes you dislike and sympathise with June’s pettiness effectually.

The author isn’t aiming for subtlety here, instead she takes on sensational issues such as cultural appropriation, intellectual property theft, casual racism, cancel culture, and of course, the publishing business, with a sledgehammer and ample wicked humour. A perfect meta novel for the finsta generation!

Last updated: November 17, 2023 | 17:28
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