An unnamed narrator who lives in Germany working as a copywriter for an asparagus company attends a concert with her roommate without being particularly interested, guided only by the temptation of free tickets. Here, she sees the “pack of boys”, the term used to refer to the Korean boy band around which her life will soon revolve. Each of the boys is undeniably beautiful, angelic, and have celestial names, such as “Moon”, “Mercury”, “Sun”, and “Venus”. In her descriptions of sold-out world tours and fans that burst into tears as soon as they see the boys, it’s tempting to try to match these characters to real bands. But everything about them, and the world that Esther Yi has created, is too weird and unsettling to be mistaken for real life.
Yellowface is a story about theft. But go down a layer and it’s a tale about racial appropriation and authorial ownership. And lying somewhere beyond these surface themes is a palpable anxiety over how the internet shapes public opinion, and the simultaneous necessity and terror of being too online.
In 1980, a year after Mridula Garg’s Hindi-language novel Chittacobra was published, two policemen appeared at her door at night to arrest her under sections 292, 293, and 294 of the Indian Penal Code, commonly referred to as the Act of Obscenity. The case was built around a scene of just two pages that described Manu, the novel’s protagonist, having sex with her husband Mahesh, whom she no longer loves.