By Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen
Known for fantasy worlds interrogating colonisation, literary sensation Rebecca F. Kuang has penned a satire of the racial tensions of the publishing industry. She told The Big Issue Australia more.
It’s a hell of an opening line: “The night I watch Athena Liu die, we’re celebrating her TV deal with Netflix.”
The narrator is June Hayward, a struggling white writer who lives in the shadow of her classmate and frenemy, Athena Liu – the literary world’s brightest star. Moments before the freak accident that claims her life, Athena is telling June about her work in progress: a novel about Chinese workers in World War I.
So what does June do? After a moment of shock – after all, she did just see someone die – she steals the manuscript and passes it off as her own under an ethnically ambiguous alter ego, Juniper Song – and finally gets the accolades she’s dreamt of. Naturally.
One of the year’s most anticipated novels, Rebecca F. Kuang’s Yellowface is a scorching, satirical takedown of institutional racism, tokenism and the ills of the publishing industry. It’s a twisty, addictive read that is precise in hitting its targets.
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