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Interior Chinatown

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,313 ratings  ·  277 reviews
From the infinitely inventive author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe comes a deeply personal novel about race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation, and escaping the roles we are forced to play.

Willis Wu doesn't perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: he's merely Generic Asian Man. Every day, he leaves his tiny room in a
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by Pantheon Books
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,313 ratings  ·  277 reviews

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Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, overdrive
This book is brilliant. It shows what you can do when you write with perception, humor and creativity about something you have experienced and understand intimately. No cultural appropriation here. Hes also one of the writers on the HBO series West World, so he understands TV too. The book tells the story of Willis Wu and his Chinese American family. Their story is interwoven inventively with the description of the generic roles that the Wus and other residents of their SRO play in a TV series. ...more
Charlie Anders
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I love this book so much. Most books are lucky to be either clever or deep, but Interior Chinatown is both, and makes it look easy. Charles Yu has so much to say about the formulas that make up pop-culture storytelling, and the ways those formulas intersect with stereotypes.

Willis Wu is a bit player on a procedural cop show called Black and White (about a black cop and a white cop), and Willis aspires to rise to better roles, like Ethnic Recurring or even the most prized role, Kung-Fu Guy.
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was definitely a different reading experience for me, one that was filled with playful jabs at Hollywood and the stereotypes that are so prevalently applied to Asians in modern society. Written in the form of a TV show script (complete with Courier font and everything!), the story revolves around a protagonist named Willis Wu who, after playing various minor and often non-speaking roles such as Silent Henchman and Dead Asian Guy, has finally worked his way up to the role of Generic Asian ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, china, 2020-read
You have to applaud Yu for crafting a unique narrative set-up: His novel merges the storyline of a TV crime procedural with the life of a young man who by his surroundings is only perceived as the "Generic Asian Man" - he is an actor trying to get a role beyond that of a clichéd Asian person, but he is also forced into the role of "Generic Asian Man" in real life. The whole effect is surreal and brilliantly conveying the strange loops in which a person who is reduced to a stereotype is trapped - ...more
lark benobi
This work is marketed as a novel, laid out as a screenplay, and requires the concentration of poetry.

On its surface the work (I hesitate to call it a novel) seems to be a critique of typecasting in the entertainment industry, but in reality thats just the envelope for a far deeper exploration of identity, because the work demonstrates through this unique format the way its characters, and through extension every one of us, is a prisoner of identities imposed on us by others. When the
Vivek Tejuja
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thought the book was exhausting when I first began to read it, till I reached about forty pages and started enjoying it thoroughly. This is somewhat my relationship with the other two books written by Yu as well. The start is rocky, till I make some headway, and before I know it, I am in love with what he has to say about the world he builds, and connects it with the world we live in. 

Interior Chinatown is a deeply emotional book about race, identity, pop culture, and what roles we are forced
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5, rounded up.

I hesitate to say anything at all about this, since I am sure there will be people screaming that my disenchantment is strictly due to 'White male privilege', but honestly, this novel will only be revelatory to someone who DIDN'T already realize that there is huge prejudice against Asians in not only Hollywood, but in general in the USA. It is really just one long, apparently autobiographical (and somewhat whiny), screed about lack of opportunities and stereotypical roles forced
Kasa Cotugno
Not only was this a fun book to read with its mashup of styles (most notably, shooting script plus narrative), it was also heartfelt and eyeopening in its depiction of a Generic Asian Man who is seeking his identity in a world that doesn't recognize him as an individual. Interior Chinatown presents his quest in a most remarkable and original way.

Ironically, all the characters are so well defined and depicted, I'd recognize any one of them if they walked in the door. Charles Yu's experiences
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This is definitely one of those "it's not you, it's me" books. Charles Yu makes some smart points about difficult issues here, and even got a couple of laughs from me along the way, but Interior Chinatown is essentially an allegory. I'm constitutionally allergic to allegory.
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2020
What does an American look like? Too often we let stereotypes and appearances drive us to assumption. Yu uses those stereotypes and social constructs to satirically, yet earnestly, illustrate Asian immigrant and Asian-American perspectives. I usually find stylistic gimmicks off-putting, but Yus clever TV script format is effective and fun. ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: taiwan, fiction, 4-stars
Wow, this was just really good. I enjoyed Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe, but this was straight-up better across the board. Thanks to GR friend Faith, whose review convinced me to give this a go!

Yu's comments on the 2-28 incident in Taiwan hit home, although if true were even more horrific than my own experience and previous reading led me to believe. I lived in Taipei for 18 years (the first 10 under martial law), and my Taiwanese wife had an uncle or two who spent time
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Told in the form of a script, this book was original, sarcastic & provocative. It played on the stereotype that "All Asian men look the same" in a vert interesting way.
The fact that the main character was part of a show was confusing at times, but I found this book to be very clever overall. All the "moving" sections were left at the end, though.
Jordy’s Book Club
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
QUICK TAKE: funny, emotional, thought-provoking satire about an Asian American background actor who dreams of making it big. Explores stereotypes and diversity through a unique lens. Must-read and probably one of the best of the year.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is a book I'll be processing and thinking about for a long time. Written by a Westworld writer in screenplay format was enough to get my attention, but the further in I got, the more this book got inside of me. It's set in a TV show, not on a production but the actual show, and it knows it's a show. It's a show but it's real life, and the meta throughout and how that construct is used honestly blew me away. I'm feeling incoherent trying to talk about this. This book is somehow a ...more
Feb 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
This book makes some great points about racism and how Asian Americans experience it in a different way than other cultural groups. It was also written in an interesting way where some scenes are written as if they are in a script. I did get confused several times where I didn't know if certain scenes were actually happening or if they were just in the main characters head. I think that was the point, but it missed the mark for me. I still enjoyed reading it.
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Charles Yu has the distinction for me of being able to write satire the way I like it. I can't describe why I like one author's satire and don't like another but I know when I do. In his story of the reality of life for Asians in America in these days of hyper awareness and endless chatter about immigration and race and representation, he nails it.

Except for one section that gets a bit preachy, although it gives a good history lesson, Yu's balance of humor and pathos is just right. If a reader
Kat  Hooper
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Will review at
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Charles Yu has produced a rare creature: a novel that is highly literary, playful with form, very funny and - most notably - not difficult. One thing that worked particularly well is the fuzzy boundary between the protagonist's real/screen persona and story as a mechanism for exploring the ambiguous place that Asian-Americans occupy in a country that still thinks of itself as largely black and white. The last 20 pages or so got a bit didactic for my taste, but it's a minor offense given how good ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was such a great read! A very unique approach to the topics of media representation, culture, and cultural stereotypes of Asian Americans both on screen and off. The thin line between reality and fiction was what kept me on my toes, constantly wondering what part of this was Willis' real life and what parts were fictional and scripted. A very well-written and engaging book that I think will be great for any reader.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book is incredible - clever, original, sarcastic, and provocative. Need some time to gather my thoughts but I know I'm going to be recommending this one a lot.
Aaron S
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up. I was completely taken aback by this book. I kind of sorta had an idea of what to expect through articles I had read, but this was so much more. The author did a superb job of mixing powerful insight and hilarious antidotes about Asian culture. A lot of the time I felt like an invisible being in a room with life unfolding around me and I had the pleasure of listening and seeing the raw truths of peoples lives, thoughts, and conversations. It truly was the definition of ...more
Rod Brown
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020-real-books
This meta, metaphorical, and satirical gimmick of a book bored me with its heavy-handed points about the Chinese American experience, valid as they are. A mash-up of a novel and a screenplay, it reads quickly enough, but still feels like the ultimate overlong Saturday Night Live sketch. I never connected with the surface humor or underlying drama, leaving me only with a "I see what he's doing there" feeling as it built toward its big and deliberately cheesy courtroom finale.
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, short and wildly funny look at American prejudices about Asians.
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, speculative
A clever and powerful framing of Asian-American experiences as literal television roles. I really loved how the author plays with the screenplay-style format, and I was impressed at how compelling many of the characters were within those constraints.
John Lamb
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I feel like heavy readers are a little bit like drug addicts. You start like everyone else, reading picture books and then moving onto chapter books. Then in high school you might dabble in some popular fiction. A John Green here. A Michael Crichton thriller there. But then you start getting into the heavy stuff (maybe you start experimenting with Thomas Pynchon) because those popular books just don't have it any more. Then you're just mainlining anything to help keep the demons away ...more
The Artisan Geek
Mar 25, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: bookcase

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DNF at 100 pages. Maybe it's just the wrong book at the wrong time but I'm just not engaged.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian-america
In spite of its overt, bordering-on-gimmicky contrivance, Interior Chinatown is one of the most emotional, character-driven "tricky" narratives I've read. However, in a deeply Kung Fu Guy ballsy move, almost every one of the choices Charles Yu makes that gives this heavily-allegorical story its considerable emotional heft, is written specifically *for* Chinese Americans.

I didn't know much about Charles Yu before starting this novel, and assumed he'd flatten out all the "ethnic"/Inscrutable
Lisa Eckstein
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2020
Willis Wu is Generic Asian Man, or sometimes Delivery Guy or Dead Asian Guy. His lifelong dream has been to attain the role of Kung Fu Guy, the highest rank available to an Asian actor. Willis, his aging parents, and all their Chinatown neighbors work at the Golden Palace restaurant, which serves as an interior on the cop show Black and White. In the world of this story, there is no reality beyond the show, or at least Willis can't conceive of any bigger dream than playing a stereotyped other in ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Who gets to be an American? What does an American look like?

I feel rather ambivalent about this one. It was a quick read, but I just couldn't connect to it. I honestly don't watch many live-action movies or TV shows, and when I do, I much prefer "art" films with pretty scores and meticulous cinematography and long moments where the actors don't talk, only stare and breathe heavy into the camera (those, and horror movies :P).

Having said that, the book made some really good points and got some
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CHARLES YU is the author of three books, including the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which was a New York Times Notable Book and named one of the best books of the year by Time magazine. He received the National Book Foundations 5 Under 35 Award, and was nominated for two WGA awards for his work on the HBO series, Westworld. He has also written for shows on FX, AMC and ...more

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