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The Souls of Yellow Folk

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  257 ratings  ·  61 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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3.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  257 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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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
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
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:
Oliver Kim
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If, this year, I were given free license by society to ascend to the top of my over-priced, under-maintained Berkeley apartment, unlock the service door, climb to the rooftop, and shout from the rafters a single book recommendation to the confused onlookers below, Wesley Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk would be my unequivocal pick.

It’s deeply necessary, provocative, electric, and all those other book-reviewer adjectives that seem at once flat and hyperbolic with two weeks’ hindsight. But, having
Samarth Gupta
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very though provoking collection of essays that touch on race, masculinity, gender, dating, social media, etc. Quotes that make me think:

“By this I mean something that has in recent years escaped from the obscurity in which it was once shrouded, even as it was always the most salient of all facts, the one most readily on display, the thing that was unspeakable precisely because it need never be spoken: that as the bearer of an Asian face in America, you paid some incremental penalty, never abs
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
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
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've never heard these facts articulated. Racism against Asians is so downplayed.
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.
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
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
You can't have it both ways, Yang. You can't decry identity politics and also write a book about the oppression of Asian men. You can't summon the great W.E.B. Dubois and not actually deal with the soul of yellow folk. This is just a collection of essays written by Yang about a large variety of topics. I loved his exploration of asian men and their unique struggles. I agree with him and I was willing to go with him on that journey, but then he starts calling out the very folks who he should be w ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Many people have already pointed out my main issues with the book: that it has no structural through-line, and is disturbingly patriarchal. Some of the pieces, like the profile of Francis Fukuyama, barely made an impression on me. They were too short and not that surprising — why even include them in a hard-copy collection? The last couple of essays, written in 2017 about political correctness, could have been written by any number of “what-is-the-world-coming-to-something-something-SJW” types. ...more
Ryan Mishap
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
If the title is a reference to DuBois, it better not include articles written about hackers and political authors from New York Magazine and what not. While the essays dealing with what the title would lead you to believe this was going to be grappling with were good, I was disappointed by the collection.
Dan Burt
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, essays, non-fiction
4.5 stars
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting collection of essays largely about the Asian-American male experience. Nothing in the collection beats the first essay though.
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.
Heather Chi
Feb 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
I’m sorry (not sorry). This is NOT the Asian answer to The Souls Of Black Folk: these are a set of polished essays from 2009 onwards that center on mostly antiquated and some thoroughly wrong-headed racial and social politics. At least two pieces are openly sympathetic to PUAs for eg. so: ZZZ.
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.
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
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was ok

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.
Sharad Pandian
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-critique
This would have been a great book if the author had simply lost the last two chapters.

As he states in the introduction, the premise of his approach can be though to be an interesting tension in the Asian-American experience, that is shown through most of the book to be a fruitful one:

In an age characterized by the politics of resentment, the Asian man knows something of the resentment of the embattled white man, besieged on all sides by grievances and demands for reparation, and something of the
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
I don't remember the first time I was aware of Wesley Yang. It might've been reading "The Face of Seung-Hui Cho" or "Game Theory", two of the n+1 pieces collected in "The Souls of Yellow Folk". But somewhere in my late college career, I began to watch his stuff. He was a writer whose take I always appreciated, a writer who allergic to generalizations. When I saw TSoYF being reviewed, I knew I'd pick up a copy, not just to revisit old pieces I appreciated like "The Life and Afterlife of Aaron Swa ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a collection of Wesley Yang's previously published work, which wouldn't have been a bad thing, but the content really underdelivered on the promise of the title and introduction. I had expected essays on race and specifically on the Asian American experience, or even something vaguely reminiscent of DuBois and I got none of that.

Part I did profile some Asian American figures, including Seung-Hui Cho, Amy Chua, and Eddie Huang. Parts II and III were a bunch of profiles on white men, Franc
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A collection of essays by Wesley Yang. He's an excellent writer, and I did not realize until reading the collection that I had read and enjoyed several of his essays when they were originally published.

What's odd about the book is that the title (and the introduction, which explains it) are wildly misleading. Just a fraction of the book deals with the Asian-American experience, and in my opinion, these are actually the weakest parts of the book (the essays on people like Aaron Swartz and Tony Ju
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
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I didn't know much about this going in, and from the description I had heard and the title, I had assumed it was mostly about Asian Americans, especially those from East Asia. But it's a fairly eclectic selection of essays; only the first of the four parts (each three magazine articles without obvious updates or new commentary) really focuses on Asian-American identity, although the last does return to issues of race in America. In between there's "here's three unrelated people I wrote profiles ...more
Lucas Miller
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Generally impressed with the writing throughout this. The title is obvious a joke, but it was still a little jarring that only the first section was focused on Yang's writing on Asian American identity.

I really enjoyed the central section of the book that showed off some really great feature writing. The essays on Aaron Swartz and on Francis Fukuyama were both really intriguing and thoughtful.

The final three essays, which amount to a very thoughtful challenge to modern trends in identity polit
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
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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.
“The theory of microaggression can’t help but seem to me mostly an indicator of how radically devoid of other threats our lives in America have become—at least in the fortunate part of the country where people go to college. But maybe I’ve grown habituated to conditions that today’s young people feel entitled to reject. And maybe I escaped the role of frightened victim by finding others to victimize.” 0 likes
“One handy rule of thumb is that any accusation or charge made as a half-ironic provocation in May will be avowed with earnest conviction in December and chanted by activists the following April.” 0 likes
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