Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang: Dive Into the Dark of Publishing Industry

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Neelam Sharma
Author: Rebecca F. Kuang


Do you know what the single driving factor in the world is? I mean, what motivates a person the most? No, it is not money or riches alone. It is validation, or fame as we know it, the need to be recognized, be acclaimed for your work, and most importantly, be remembered enough as one who was able to make a mark upon others’ minds.

Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang is the story of two such characters who, in such pursuits, go awry, one meeting her own sad death and the other getting caught up in a horrible and vicious circle of deceit, lies, gaslighting, cancel culture, and all those human traits that we are privy to, as humans, of course. Exploring and decoding the dark side of the publishing industry and a writer’s rocky pursuits, Yellowface is a book you have to pick up today.

Writing is the closest thing we have to real magic. Writing is creating something out of nothing and opening doors to other lands. Writing gives you the power to shape your own world when the real one hurts too much.

Boy, oh boy! Don’t these words resonate with all of us? I can vouch for them even from a non-writer’s point of view. That is because, indeed, writing is something so pristinely intricate that one can only sense the sheer magic words can bring about.

And yet, today, as I sit and mull over writing and its many diverse paradigms, I am also compelled to acknowledge another dark truth that prevails in the writing industry, especially in the publishing arena. Cancel cultures, selfish races, gaslighting, the “crab attitude” (as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan famously called it, the act of pulling your peers down in the mud), creative theft, plagiarism, and any pursuit that tends to defile it and besmirch the pure creativity of it.

Yes, writing is no longer a profession that perhaps people used to choose for the cathartic purpose of expressing themselves, their ideas, and their thoughts to the rest of the world. Agreed, any profession demands money, but there is a difference between earning a living and living simply to earn money without any sense of self-conscience. Yes, it simply seems to have become a hound race (apologies if this sounds brash), a pursuit simply to race it to the head of the pack, to see your name in print, on the shelves, regardless of how and why one does it.

Hmm, in case you are wondering where I picked up the lines I quoted at the beginning, well, I just finished “Yellowface” by Rebecca F. Kuang, and I am like totally feeling a sense of relatable deja-vu, an emotion of sorts that I cannot quite place in words to begin with.

You know a writer’s first draft, or even their first book or work, is more dreamlike and raw, yet so pristine and clear in its meaning and conveyance. It exudes a sort of raw sweetness, innocuous and naive, as if waiting to be picked up, and smells like that fresh sprig of flower that breaks the surface just when spring arrives. Okay, okay, I am not getting carried away here; back to Yellowface now.

This is the story of two writers, Athena Liu and Juniper Hayward, who, being friends right from their freshman year at the writing college, get tangled up in strange twists of fate. When Athena takes Juniper to her apartment to celebrate the success of her having landed a Netflix adaptation for her book, things end up awry and twisted as Athena chokes and dies. Inexplicably, though, her last working manuscript happens to land with Juniper, who decides to take it, make it her own, and get it published.

What initially began as a simple creative pursuit to give a fellow deceased friend’s last work a good closure turns into a vicious circle where all Juniper does and acclaims success for becomes a sort of reverse serpent. “The Last Front,” the book in question, although getting Juniper the phenomenal success she has been pining for, lands her in a deeper pit where all she must keep racing towards is an endless quagmire where initially she has to fight and refute claims of plagiarism and stealing and later on become a pawn in this infinite curve of having to prove herself, validating her creativity constantly.

How far she goes in order to stay in tune and maintain this is what constitutes the rest of the story, which is nettled with so many backlinks and telltale practices of the sad side of the publishing industry that I would be surprised if you do not relate to it or sigh in comprehension as you proceed towards the end.

As a book, I would say Rebecca managed to keep me glued, especially in the first half until Juniper struggles with getting “The Last Front” published and getting it commercially successful. Although, if you personally ask me, I am more amazed at the way she has given closure to several aspects in the second half of it. All the thoughts I have ever had, especially when it comes to a writer’s validation, are proven so true here that I was absolutely unnerved.

Yes, all the writer wants is to be heard. The commercial success, the fame, and all other variables enter gradually but surely, making it all so complicated that he/she is barely left with much choice except to push himself or herself deeper into this never-ending toxic abyss of simply pushing their peers over the edge of the precipice while trying to gain firmer and higher ground for themselves. Losing their conscience and eventually selling out their souls, what began as a creative pursuit becomes a quest for something so unfathomable that it is absolutely daunting to even think about it.

Take any bottleneck from the publishing arena—gaslighting, cancel culture, ill-treatment towards subordinates, plagiarism, and all such ones—and I think each and every writer has to go through these rough roads. Forget only writers; even book bloggers like me have had to see so much unfair treatment and insubordination that I could hear in my heart the words when Candice, Diana, and Adele were belittling Juniper, marking her the next “collateral damage” in a creative war that was much more than what met the eye.

The way Juniper is celebrated and idolized for the success of her work and later practically shoved into a non-existent presence had me in unshed tears. True, I would also go so far as to call the narrative a bit stretched at some points, yet I have rarely come across a work that spells out the truth loudly and clearly in such a coy and subtle manner.

Bravo, Rebecca, not only for writing this bestseller but for giving a voice to so much, pulling out all those skeletons from the closet that have never been addressed, and most importantly, for making us meet our very own vicious side. Yes, I feel unashamed in admitting that Rebecca, through this work, has put forth some very big home truths that we know and yet pretend that we don’t. It’s not easy to write something so impactful.

So, I hope you guys liked my musings about the book Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang: Dive Into the dark of Publishing Industry.

I hope you resonate with them as much as you do with my musings and the latest and best in the fields of entertainment, lifestyle, food, finance, fun, fashion, education, tech, and gadgets, as well as all things bookish.

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Adios Amigos!

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