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The Souls of Yellow Folk

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3.41  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  30 reviews
One of the most acclaimed essayists of his generation, Wesley Yang writes about race and sex without the jargon, formulas, and polite lies that bore us all. His powerful debut, The Souls of Yellow Folk, does more than collect a decade’s worth of cult-reputation essays—it corrals new American herds of pickup artists, school shooters, mandarin zombies, and immigrant strivers ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company
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Lee
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 largely exemplary essays and portraits with a few puff pieces that are at very least perfectly formed and entertaining.
Esther Espeland
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Okay! Book has a great title, but it is very misleading! Went into this expecting/hoping for a book of essays explicitly about Asian-American experiences. There are a couple essays on race (the first one which I had read already, about the Virginia tech shooter who was a Korean-American, is great). Rather, a selection of essays spanning Yangs career most of which are profiles of people/cultural events from ten years ago. It’s 2018 baby! I’m not trying to read a bunch of think pieces about people ...more
Faith
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
While I liked some of these essays, including the last one “What is White Supremacy”, my main problem with this collection is that my expectations were disappointed. That is primarily the fault of the totally misleading title of the book. I wanted some analysis of race from the point of view of Asian Americans. Instead I got a bunch of rambling essays, most of which were not about Asian Americans at all. It’s also a very male-oriented book. For example, instead of just describing a training cour ...more
Teddy Kupfer
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Was able to get an advance copy thru work, but everything in here has been previously published, so I figure it's OK to write this. Man, what a good writer.

First essay, "The Face of Seung-Hui Cho," is an intensely personal piece about what it is like to be an Asian American man in today's U.S.: to be someone who "knows what it's like to have a cultural code superimposed atop your face," a code that "abashes, nullifies, and unmans you." When he passes an Asian man alone on the street, he writes:
...more
John Pistelli
It was once a pop-socio-psychological commonplace of American foreign-policy commentary that terrorism on behalf of political Islam was motivated less by ideology and more by an intractable reality of gender: young men with no prospects in their societies will inevitably become violently anti-social. Maybe people still say that about what used to be called "the Arab street," but the consensus in the west today is that males (and other longstanding elites) can be displaced from their previous pos ...more
Dawn
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've never heard these facts articulated. Racism against Asians is so downplayed.
Jennifer
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's not necessarily the quality of the writing that's an issue but the packaging and also the message of what's being said. Initially, I was very intrigued by what a book with this title (a riff off W.E.B DuBois' SOULS OF BLACK FOLK) may interrogate in race for Asian/Pacific Islanders, sadly it falls way below expectation. Essentially the title is WAY off base for this text and it would be better served to not try and cash in on Black awareness in prose to make this one stand out more.

All of t
...more
Julie Powers
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I won this book in a giveaway. I found this book did just what I had hoped it would do - make me uncomfortable enough to challenge my political and racial views. The collection of essays were honest and spared no punches. I would recommend it to anyone willing to challenge their current views regarding racial inequality.
L.A.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Not what you think it's going to be, but not bad.

If you picked up this book expecting in-depth assessments of what it's like to be Asian American today, you're going to be disappointed. If you can get past that and read all the essays, however, you'll come away with some gems.

Emphasis on "some." When Yang is good, he's really, really good. "Eddie Huang Against the World" and "The Life and Afterlife of Aaron Swartz" are very good. "Game Theory" is disturbing and hilarious at the same time. "The T
...more
Juliet
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A collection of essays ranging from race, masculinity and some pop culture. Very interesting and relevant, we need more diverse voices like him.
Katy
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Given the title, I was expecting this book to be about an Asian-American experience, but the majority of the book is a collection of Yang's essays on disparate topics that have nothing to do with Asian-American identity. 'The Souls of Yellow Folk' is such a misleading title, if not wholly appropriative for aligning Asian-American issues with black issues.
Ben Panico
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Received an ARC. Yang is a great writer with some really insightful comments on what it's like to be an Asian man in America. He definitely discusses a lot of issues that I've not read elsewhere, and for that, I appreciate the opportunity to read this book.

That said, I was a little confused by some of the pieces included. There isn't a lot of flow from section to section, and I had trouble getting through the middle bits that seemed to have little to do with "the souls of yellow folk". I know th
...more
Kim
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
ARC.

I think Yang is going to make a fantastic True Crime writer some day. His passion is clear and True Crime fans will find several essays here of interest.

I was not a fan of this book. I'm not a True Crime fan, and I couldn't shake the sense that Yang's worldview considers women relatively irrelevant and holds them in high reproach when they don't find that a scintillating personality trait. I suspect men will prefer this book more than women, but only time and data will tell that tale. YMMV.
Daniel Cunningham
Yang is a great essayist, no doubt, and covers a lot of territory here, a considerable amount that doesn't have anything directly to do with "yellow folk" or, more generally, race/racism/etc. (Though almost all of which -almost- does have to do with 'identity' from one angle or another; that is a leitmotif in his writing.) To be honest, I'm not sure why the editor/publisher went with the du Bois title (well, maybe to sell more books) and I do understand why some people express disappointment or ...more
Majolo
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is a collection of a decade’s worth of essays from various venues. Not all of of them are addressed directly toward topics you might expect from the title. The essays are grouped thematically in four untitled sections. Their original publication dates range from 2008 to 2017, and the dizzying way that decade played out is probably responsible for the slightly off-balance sensation I had in reading the book. By halfway through, I picked up the habit of peeking at the end of each piece t ...more
Sandy Masia
Wesley Young is really articulate, his sharp use of words allows him to capture vividly all the things he discusses. He is a keen observer of people, societies, interpersonal dynamics, behavior and trends. He has an uncanny ability - in his use of diction, tone and syntax - to make what he implies speak more powerfully than what he actually writes, there is power in that.
On a couple of essays he offers powerful insights of what it's like to be an Asian-American in the US, I personally have alwa
...more
Jack Caulfield
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent essay collection that seems to take modern loneliness, anxieties and resentments—and the ways in which these can be exploited, politicised and marketed—as its central theme. Yang writes about race, gender, politics, culture, and about various public figures from Aaron Swartz to Francis Fukuyama. He is willing to delve into uncomfortable territory without flinching and always with searing honesty. His prose is measured and beautiful. Strongly recommended.
Jw513
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yang is an incredibly gifted prose writer. The major downside of this book, if you're someone who enjoys reading his essays in general, is that there doesn't seem to be anything new here. It's just a selection of some of his particularly strong essays over the years. (And they are very strong.) But I felt a little disappointed that there wasn't any new material (as far as I could tell).
Jonathan Hiskes
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Lively, diverse, agile-minded essays and profiles that run from Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, to historian Tony Judt to the pioneers of the online "seduction community." The best pieces explore the experience of being Asian American and merge reporting with reflection from Yang's own life. I wanted more of this.
Kathy
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I’m not aware of another collection of essays that is written from the point of view of an Asian male in America. But I wish more of the essays had been about the Asian-American experience, like the excellent first and last essays. Read this book for these two pieces. The title of the collection, a nod to Du Bois’s “Souls of Black Folk,” is a bit misleading here.
Renee
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
The parts about Asian Americans is more interesting than the parts that aren’t.

I don’t know why Yang’s essays on non Asians have been included into the book when a simple nod to them in other parts could have sufficed.
Nathaniel Perrin
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of if not the best essay collections of 2018. Clearly written and easily digestible reflections on a variety of topics (most poignantly the Asian-American male experience) that is worth the weekend read.
Michelle
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books of essays I’ve encountered in recent years. I wish I’d known his writings before this book came out.
Don’t get discouraged by detractors, especially those who should know better.
Rachel C.
Five stars for Parts I and IV, diluted somewhat by the miscellany in Parts II and III.

My reluctant obsession with US politics means that most of my reading on race is about the African-American experience. Yang provided me with some much needed breadth.
Jade Wang
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I found beginning few essays that focused on the Asian-American identity the most compelling. Some of the middle essays, profiles of Aaron Swartz and the like, I was a bit baffled by. Ultimately a bit disappointing, but happy to be reading a defiant Asian-American voice.
Charles Yan
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
very misleading title but good essays
Chang Garcia
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Very disappointing.
Eliza Romero
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Wesley Yang has published criticism, essays, and nonfiction features in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, the New York Times Book Review, New York Magazine, Esquire, Tablet, and n+1. His work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Magazine Writing, Best Creative Nonfiction, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in Montreal.
“In lieu of loving the world twice as hard, I care, in the end, about expressing my obdurate singularity at any cost. I love this hard and unyielding part of myself more than any other reward the world has to offer a newly brightened and ingratiating demeanor, and I will bear any costs associated with it.” 0 likes
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