Yellowface: insights from Rebecca F Kuang

Rebecca F Kuang’s debut literary fiction, ‘Yellowface’ has taken the publishing world by storm. She revealed more about the book's evolution at a recent Sydney event.
Rebecca F Kuang speaking at All About Women 2024, Sydney Opera House. Photo: Jaimi Joy. Kuang is wearing a black sleeveless dress with floral patterns with her hands raised in the middle of explaining something. She has black tied-up hair and a black fringe. On the left is the cover of ‘Yellowface’, with two slanted almond eyes on a bright yellow background.

Described as ‘a satirical literary thriller that’s enjoyable and uncomfortable in equal measure’ by The New York Times, Asian American author Rebecca F Kuang’s Yellowface has generated a fair amount of critical discussion around race, diversity and who gets to tell a story.

Yellowface is told from the perspective of June Hayward, a ‘basic white girl’ who has always felt as if she has had the short end of the stick compared to her friend Athena Liu – the literary world’s new bae who checks all the right boxes for racial diversity, talent and charisma. With Liu’s career cut short by an unfortunate death, Hayward is left with her unfinished manuscript aware it is bound to be the next bestseller.

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Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne.