Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
“Bad Art Friend” meets psychological thriller in this pacy, satirical page-turner.
June Hayward is a struggling author whose debut novel flopped. Her college friend, Athena Liu, is a bestselling author who just landed a Netflix deal. When Athena dies in an accident, June finds herself in possession of the secret manuscript for Athena’s next project: a historical novel about Chinese laborers in WWI called The Last Front. June convinces herself that it’s better to rewrite and submit the draft under her own name than to let it languish in obscurity—even though a plagiarism scandal would ruin her career.
Kuang herself has been a vocal critic of Big Five publishers during the recent HarperCollins strike, and she doesn’t pull any punches as she takes The Last Front through its fictional publishing process. Yellowface conveys the nuance inherent to discussions of plagiarism and cultural appropriation while remaining highly readable. Tense and compelling.
Reviewed by Emma Radosevich, collection development librarian, Whatcom County Library System
(Originally published in Bellingham Alive September 2023 issue.)