She Wrote a Blistering Satire About Publishing. The Publishing Industry Loves It.

She Wrote a Blistering Satire About Publishing. The Publishing Industry Loves It.

The author R.F. Kuang at the Boston Public Library this month. She knows “Yellowface” might make some readers uneasy: That's the point. “Reading racism should not be a feel-good experience.”Credit…Sophie Park for The New York Times Everything about R.F. Kuang's novel “Yellowface” feels engineered to make readers uncomfortable. There's the title, which is awkward to say out loud, and the cover, which features a garish racial stereotype — cartoonish slanted eyes imposed on a block of yellow. Then there's the story itself. In the opening chapters, a white author steals a manuscript from the home of a Chinese American novelist who has died in a bizarre accident, and plots to pass it off as her own. What follows is a twisty thriller and a scorching indictment of the publishing industry's pervasive whiteness and racial blind spots. If people in the world bristle at Kuang's withering depiction of the book business — or cringe in recognition — well, that's exactly the point, she said. “Reading about racism should not be a feel-good experience,” she said. “I do want people to be uncomfortable with the way that they're trained to write about and market and sell books, and be uncomfortable with who's in the room, and how they're talking about who's in the room. “And it's also functioning on a different level for writers of color,” she added, “to think about how we are moving through those spaces, and the traps that are set for us.” Kuang, a best-selling fantasy writer and doctoral student in East Asian languages and literatures at Yale, said this while sitting in a sunny office at the headquarters of her publisher, HarperCollins. It was late April, and she had just signed 2,000 copies of “Yellowface” — which William Morrow, a HarperCollins imprint, will release on Tuesday — to ship to 250 independent bookstores. The location was oddly fitting for a conversation in which Kuang pondered how her novel might be received within the industry she brutally satirizes. Judging from the largely ecstatic early responses to the novel, the literary world seems to enjoy being […]

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