Title: Interior Chinatown
Author: Charles Yu
Published in: 2020
Rating: 4 stars
“Interior Chinatown” by Charles Yu tells the story of an Asian American boy, Willis Wu, growing up in Chinatown (no surprise there). His family was poor and often struggling, but both he and his parents dreamed of becoming stars in the film industry. As a boy, he dreamt of becoming the “Kung Fu Guy”, at the top of the social pyramid in the Male Asian Actor community. However, he’s still stuck in “Oriental Male” roles, and his anxiety increases as he gets older.
I love the satirical tone that Yu uses in this book and the meaningful metaphors that the story presents. For example, the “cop show” where Willis wishes to be Kung Fu Guy named “Black and White” pokes fun at Hollywood stereotypes and raises more serious questions about racial belongingness in America. However, a flaw that I noticed is the structure of the book, though it can be a strength in its creativity. The book constantly shifts between the present, memories, and scripts of TV shows, with reality sometimes portrayed through a screenplay format and vice versa. So though the book is short, it requires constant rereading to understand the plot.
This book can be read by all teens. It is an easy read in terms of language and time needed (the unique screenwriting structure parts of the books are formatted to take up a large portion of space with only a few words). Yet, don’t be fooled by the funny voice that Wu sometimes narrates. “Interior Chinatown” discusses heavy themes like racism, poverty, and relationships with parents that are more easily approachable in Wu’s writing.
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