I started going on extra-long walks just so I could listen to this one more. It was funny, having just released my latest novel, to listen to Yellowface, which is partly a satire about the publishing industry. I could definitely connect with the commentary about the hypocrisy in publishing and the narrator’s frustrations. But if I’d only focused on that element of the novel, I’d be missing the point. R. F. Kuang’s writing is a slow burn, and that’s the brilliance of it. Kuang delves into topics like female friendship, racism, cultural appropriation, personal identities, micro-aggressions, and even (kinda, sorta) the meaning of life. The plot is brilliant- an author’s friend, who is way more successful than she is, dies. The friend steals her manuscript, revises it, and publishes it herself. But then what? The fallout is huge, and in so many ways.
I guess this book has some critics; some people found the satire offensive. Not me. I never felt like Kuang was offering absolutes. Every character in the novel is morally ambiguous. There’s no single voice that offers all the answers to such complex questions about author ownership, creative property, racism and cultural appropriation, and writing your truth.
I’m so glad I read (well, listened to) Yellowface. I definitely plan to check out Kuang’s other novel, Babel.