Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu

9 November 2021
Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu, book cover

Willis Wu imagines he is an extra in a TV crime show. But he aspires to be more than an insignificant figure lurking in the background, he has his eye on a lead role. Kung Fu Guy would be ideal, but he can’t seem to break out of the part he has become typecast in, that of Generic Asian Man. Is it possible his Taiwanese Chinese ancestry is working against him?

The TV show, named Black and White – the lead characters are police officers, one is black, the other white – plays out in a restaurant called Golden Palace, located in the Chinatown of an American city. It might be though Willis is actually a restaurant worker who imagines he is part of a TV show. But in Interior Chinatown (published by Allen & Unwin, January 2021), the fourth novel by American author Charles Yu, the distinction isn’t really relevant.

Behind the screenplay, or the would-be cop-show, is a story of immigration and assimilation. Of people who leave their homeland and relocate to a new country. A place where their appearance, and the language they speak, may set them apart. See them sometimes relegated to the fringes of society. This may not be a TV show many of us want to be cast in…

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