This post contains links to products that I may receive compensation from at no additional cost to you. View my Affiliate Disclosure page here.
Book club questions for Yellowface by R.F. Kuang takes an in-depth look at this compelling novel about racism and cultural appropriation. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review first.
Whew, what a novel! I have not read anything like this before. I keep thinking about so many elements of it.
That said, I did not love the climax and ending. I just wanted more and it felt a bit letdown. But I still think the novel is very strong as a whole.
Let me know your thoughts about the book below!
Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.
So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.
So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.
But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
Book Club Questions for Yellowface
- What was your overall impression of June? Why do you think the author chose to stay in her perspective for the entire novel?
- Were June and Athena ever really friends? If June held such contempt for Athena, why did she always agree to spend time with her?
- What were your thoughts when June witnesses Athena choke to death on a pancake? Could June have done more to intervene?
- Why did June steal her manuscript?
- June gives herself excuses for everything. For instance, in her perspective, Athena’s success is only due to her race. And when June steals her manuscript, she tells herself it isn’t necessarily stealing as she made her own edits to the book. What does these delusions say about June’s mental state and perspective on life?
- June is full of micro aggressions toward the Asian community, especially any time she is questioned for covering Chinese history as a White woman with no prior connection or shown previous interest in the time period. What do you feel the author was trying to convey with June’s attitude and reactions?
- The publisher decides that June should now go by Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo. What are your thoughts about this and what does this say about the publishing industry?
- This provided such a look into the publishing world—including the efforts it takes to help a book become a bestseller. Why do you feel some books are pushed more in the public eye than others? What are some of the qualities that makes a book a bestseller—it it simply better marketing or it is more complicated than that?
- Another aspect of the novel is the pitfalls of social media, especially Twitter and Instagram. When June starts to face criticism, she spends her time reading the negative comments more than positive ones. Why do you think people like June are so obsessed with social media? Do you feel social media will always be around or do think society may one day reject it?
- When trying to write her next novel, June comes up blank. Until she finds ideas from Athena, and she steals from her again. Why was June so addicted to stealing from Athena?
- What were your thoughts on Athena as a whole?
- What was your impression of the climax, including the reveal that the former literary assistant Candace recorded June’s confession about stealing Athena’s work?
- What happens next for June? Will she ever stop her manic obsession with literary success?
- What do you think was the goal of the author with writing Yellowface?
Hope you enjoy book club questions for Yellowface! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr by Crystal Smith Paul
An engaging novel about identity is Did You Hear About Kitty Karr by Crystal Smith Paul.
When Kitty Karr Tate, a White icon of the silver screen, dies and bequeaths her multimillion-dollar estate to the St. John sisters, three young, wealthy Black women, it prompts questions. Lots of questions.
A celebrity in her own right, Elise St. John would rather focus on sorting out Kitty’s affairs than deal with the press. But what she discovers in one of Kitty’s journals rocks her world harder than any other brewing scandal could—and between a cheating fiancé and the fallout from a controversial social media post, there are plenty.
The truth behind Kitty’s ascent to stardom from her beginnings in the segregated South threatens to expose a web of unexpected family ties, debts owed, and debatable crimes that could, with one pull, unravel the all-American fabric of the St. John sisters and those closest to them.
As Elise digs deeper into Kitty’s past, she must also turn the lens upon herself, confronting the gifts and burdens of her own choices and the power that the secrets of the dead hold over the living.
Check out my book club questions here.
The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
For those who like unreliable narrators, another interesting read is The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont.
In 1925, Miss Nan O’Dea infiltrated the wealthy, rarefied world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. In every way, she became a part of their life––first, both Christies. Then, just Archie. Soon, Nan became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife, desperate to marry him. Nan’s plot didn’t begin the day she met Archie and Agatha.
It began decades before, in Ireland, when Nan was a young girl. She and the man she loved were a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together––until the Great War, a pandemic, and shameful secrets tore them apart. Then acts of unspeakable cruelty kept them separated.
What drives someone to murder? What will someone do in the name of love? What kind of crime can someone never forgive? Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable novel explores these questions and more.
Check out my book club questions here.