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14 Great Yellowface Book Club Questions

Looking for Yellowface book club questions for your next reading group meeting? Here are 13 thought-provoking discussion questions to get you guys going!

Yellowface book club questions

Yellowface is R F Kuang’s fifth book and was another roaring success by this talented young author. This book has quickly become one of my favourite reads and I’ve been recommending it to everyone ever since I finished it.

It’s super readable, and simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking, which makes it perfect for book club discussions.

Yellowface Summary & Review

Yellowface tells the story of June Hayward and Athena Liu, two young women living in Washington DC, friends (or “friends”) and writers. Athena is beautiful, wealthy and has already found literary success. June on the other hand is struggling to get her agent to pay her any attention.

When Athena suddenly passes away in a freak accident with June present, June takes this opportunity to steal Athena’s unpublished manuscript right from her study.

Athena’s final story is about the Chinese Labour Corps and their role in WW1, which June edits and finishes, before sending it to her agent under her own name. The draft is incredibly well received and June signs a book deal with one of the top publishers.

But it’s decided that the book should be published under a pen name, Juniper Song, ostensibly to distance it from June’s existing, unsuccessful works, and definitely not because it is somewhat racially ambiguous.

Yellowface explores a huge number of themes in a relatively short number of pages: diversity in the publishing industry, cancel culture, racial appropriation, intense jealousy, fame and success at a young age and more.

It’s a satire and thriller with a deeply twisted cast of characters that you can’t help but be fascinated by. I absolutely loved reading things from June’s POV and couldn’t wait to see what effed up course of events she would put in motion next.

I found her narrative made me chuckle more and more as she became more desperate to justify her actions. She really spiralled!

I also loved learning more about Athena Liu through the lens of other characters as the story went on. She’s no angel by any means.

All in all, I’d highly recommend Yellowface to every kind of reader. It’s a gripping and readable story that I’m convinced most people will really enjoy it too!

13 Yellowface Book Club Questions

  1. Do you think June could have done more to save Athena? Do you think she may have deliberately let Athena choke?
  2. What do you think was going through June’s head when she took Athena’s work? What do you think June expected to happen?
  3. Do you think June and Athena were ever really friends? Do you think either June or Athena has any real friends or relationships?
  4. What did you think of the character June? Did your feelings about her change at all while reading Yellowface? Did you ever find yourself agreeing with her opinions or actions? Did you sympathise with her?
  5. We mostly learn about Athena through the eyes of others: June, her ex, her mother. Did you like the character Athena based on what you learnt about her? Did your opinion of her change over the course of the book?
  6. Do you think that June plagiarised Athena’s work by publishing The Last Front? What about her second story with material ‘borrowed’ from Athena? Where do you think the line is between copying and inspiration for writers?
  7. What do you think of June changing her name to Juniper Song when she published The Last Front? Do you think it’s unethical to use an ambiguous pen name?
  8. Do you think June had any right to write about the Chinese labour corps? Did Athena? Do you think stories can only be written by people with personal lived experience of the issues discussed?
  9. What did you think of June’s attitude when people found out that she had no Chinese heritage? Do you think the way she acts is justified?
  10. June falls into a negative spiral of reading what people say about her and her works online. Do you think authors should always avoid looking themselves up online? What do you think of reviewers tagging authors in their reviews? Should reviewers only tag an author in a positive review?
  11. Did you suspect the identity of June’s online stalker? Who else did you think it might be?
  12. What do you think happens to June after the end of the story? Do you think she goes on to have further literary success?
  13. Given the author is an Asian American writer herself, how much truth do you think there is in Yellowface about how diversity is treated in the publishing industry? Do you think certain events in the book might have been inspired by real events?
  14. The title of the book is a play on words. What do you think of the title of the book?
  15. Yellowface has won numerous awards since its publication but was mysteriously excluded from the Hugo Awards hosted in China in 2023. Kuang was not the only author of Chinese descent to have been excluded – read more in this New York Times article here.
  16. What do you think of this controversy? Do you think awards like this should not be held in countries that have different political systems and beliefs that might be at odds with typical ‘Western’ values?
  17. Kuang has award-winning books in totally different fields – The Poppy War Trilogy, Babel and Yellowface.
  18. Have you read any of these other books by R F Kuang? Do you think her success is justified or do you think her success may be down to her being the “token” Asian author (as Kuang herself has been told before).


I hope you have a fun and thought-provoking book club discussion with the above pointers!

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Laura is an award-winning travel and book blogger based in the UK. She studied French literature at Oxford University and is now an IP lawyer at a top law firm in London. She was named UK Book Blogger of the Year in 2019 and loves to combine her passion for books and travel with literary travel.