Interior Chinatown

Interior Chinatown Study Guide

Interior Chinatown (2020) is the second novel by American writer Charles Yu. It is the story of Willis Wu, a young Asian actor stuck playing two-dimensional caricatures like "Oriental Guy Making a Weird Face" and "Silent Henchman." Wu aspires to become "Kung Fu Guy," the best role available for Asian actors on Black and White, the police procedural TV show in which the world of the novel is set. Wu lives above The Golden Palace, an Asian restaurant/crime den/casino/laundromat/et cetera that provides the backdrop for whenever the detectives of Black and White need to dip their proverbial toes into superficial Asian culture.

Wu climbs the long, stuttering ladder of TV bit-part ascendancy, falls in love, and learns about what it means to be Asian in America from his parents, his peers, and the coming generation. It's an inventive, highly conceptual novel that places a high priority on understanding individuals and how they live within structures much larger than themselves.

Interior Chinatown is notable for its nuanced and satiric portrayal of Asian invisibility in America, as well as its clever intermixture of prose and screenplay. It was released to critical acclaim and won the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.