Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2024

Title:Alumna author sets bestselling novel in DC, Georgetown

Author: Gabrielle Barone
Date Published: April 8, 2024
a woman in a black long-sleeved shirt and blue plaid pants front of a teal background
Rebecca Kuang. Photo: John Packman

The Exorcist Steps are among the local landmarks featured in Yellowface, a 2023 thriller about race, publishing, and perception by Rebecca Kuang (SFS’18), who publishes under the name R.F. Kuang.

a yellow background with a pair of eyes and the word "yellowface"
Yellowface, by R. F. Kuang.

An international history major at Georgetown, Kuang found literary success during her undergraduate years. She wrote her first novel, The Poppy War, published in 2018, while taking a year off to work in China.

Returning to Georgetown, Kuang was named a 2018 Marshall Scholar and pursued graduate study in the United Kingdom. She went on to earn master’s degrees at Cambridge and Oxford, publishing two more novels in The Poppy War series before entering the Ph.D. program at Yale. The cities where she studied play a role in her stories, including her 2022 book Babel: or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution.

“Most novels about the publishing world are set in New York City,” Kuang explains, “but alas, I’ve never lived in NYC and couldn’t write convincingly about it.”

In Yellowface, the white narrator steals an unfinished manuscript about Chinese laborers from her recently deceased, more successful friend, who is Asian, and publishes it as her own work. The novel has received widespread acclaim, including praise from Stephen King, who tweeted that the “great read” was “hard to put down, [and] harder to forget.” It’s also been named Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2023 and a Reese’s Book Club Pick. Kuang is a #1 New York Times bestselling author.

Kuang’s favorite Georgetown memories include running along the Potomac—but not via the Exorcist Steps. “I avoided [them] as a student… and for good reason!” Kuang says.

Learn more about the book on the Alumni Authors site >

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