Home 5 News 5 From Literary Fame to Scandal: The Fall of Kim Chi

From Literary Fame to Scandal: The Fall of Kim Chi

by | Jun 26, 2024 | News

An Italian-American author who pretended to be a Korean writer called Kim Chi is at the centre of the latest literary scandal – which has sparked comparisons to hit thriller Yellowface, in which a white woman steals an Asian novelist’s transcript and passes it off as her own.

Kim Crisci, who misled readers about her heritage, has since apologised for ‘deceiving people with false implications’ and ‘breaking all sense of decency’ – before ‘removing herself from the writing community’.

The furore was uncovered by fellow author Lanchi Le, who was in a Discord server with Kim – after becoming suspicious following comments she made about Vietnamese culture. Lanchi collated the evidence in a thread on X, which they have since deleted – but the drama was recounted by Youtuber @withcindy in a video last week.

Alarm bells for Lanchi first rang in April, when they shared an excerpt from a work in progress, which featured a Vietnamese character on the receiving end of an ignorant comment. The author was also accused of misguiding fans with her profile picture, which was at one point a snap of her friend –  who is Asian – with a small portion of Kim’s face barely visible in the shot. Another photo used on her profile appears to have been a stock image of a woman’s back, with the face not visible.

In another instance, Kim also had the South Korean and Somalian flags in her social media handle – usually used to signal heritage online. Kim recently offered her apology online. She wrote: ‘I’m going to be blunt. Yes. Yes, it is true.

‘I deceived people with false implications, and for that, I am deeply sorry. I am not deserving of the community’ forgiveness, especially from those I offended or hurt.

‘It was never my intention to write about a culture’s lived experience. I set out (foolishly, I know) to write books that featured the American experience first.

‘My characters were intended to depict the melting pot of America, Americans who happened to be Taiwanese, Korean, Italian, etc.

‘I realize how insensitive I was to decouple a character from their heritage. The OWN aspects of my pitches were not about race. ‘Nevertheless, I broke all sense of decency when I implied and let others believe I belonged to a culture congruent with my characters.

‘Once again, I am truly deeply sorry to those who trusted me and considered me a friend/ally.

‘You deserve better than to be lied to, which I am clearly guilty of. I know I don’t deserve the community’s forgiveness or open arms, but I do hope someday I will be worthy of them.

‘I will remove myself from the writing community and from any groups affiliated with me so the healing process can begin.’Social media users online have compared the controversy to the plot of R.F. Kuang’s book Yellowface.

The novel tells the story of Athena Liu, a young darling of the literary world and Juniper Hayward – her jealous friend. When Athena suddenly dies in a freak accident, Juniper steals Athena’s just-finished manuscript about Chinese laborers in World War I. She publishes it under another name – which is racially ambiguous – and takes all the credit for the book, which is a runaway success. Exactly how far Juniper – who is white – will go to defend her project provides the jeopardy in the highly rated satire.

 

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