‘I’m still a bit shocked anyone is publishing this’

It feels like whiplash going from the Babel launch to Yellowface, a book that could not be more different!

If Babel is my sprawling, Dickensian bildungsroman then Yellowface is a snarky, ridiculous, satirical romp through publishing and all its scandals. It’s written to imitate the dread and schadenfreude of watching a flame war in real time; it’s a trainwreck you can’t look away from.

Yellowface has a lot to say about whiteness, cultural appropriation, diaspora anxieties, and who has the right to tell what stories.’

Rebecca Kuang

Babel is meant to be savoured slowly over many sittings; Yellowface is a tear-through-it-in-one-afternoon fever dream. It is the YouTube comments section of writing drama, and I hope it makes you laugh and cringe and groan all at once. 

I can’t tell you how cathartic it was ripping into every absurd power dynamic that manifests at writing workshops, literary festivals, publishing meetings, and book launches. (I’m still a bit shocked anyone is publishing this.) Yellowface has a lot to say about whiteness, cultural appropriation, diaspora anxieties, and who has the right to tell what stories. It probes what happens when marginalisation and trauma are captured and repurposed as marketing copy; when we turn pain into profit.

At its heart, though, I think that it is a story about friendship, jealousy, and rivalries gone terribly wrong – and how isolating it can be, truly, to be a writer in a world where everything is about personal brands, Instagram likes, and verification check marks. I think something terrible happens to our creative drives and our passion for craft when we get lost in the hamster wheel of social media competitiveness.

If at the end of the day Yellowface makes you want to put your phone in a drawer and never look at it again, I think it’ll have done its job. Let’s all go outside and touch some grass.

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