Interior Chinatown is written as a screenplay for a crime series called “Black and White”. The protagonist, Willis Wu, an American of Taiwanese descent, interestingly plays only a minor part in the series. Since childhood his dream was to become a famous actor. To achieve that, he needs to climb the ladder – he started as a Background Oriental, then even became a Dead Asian Man, but his dream, just like everybody else’s, is the real success – becoming the Kung Fu Guy. He is ready to sacrifice almost anything to achieve his goal.
We follow his career, as well as the fate of various characters who are part of his life in Chinatown. We meet his parents, who at the end of their unfulfilled careers are just old, unnecessary background characters, his friends, his neighboourrs, and the woman with whom Willis starts a family.
Yu very aptly and with biting humor describes how Hollywood promotes clichéd stereotypes about minorities. He also notices how difficult it can sometimes be not to think about yourself through the prism of these stereotypes, or to define yourself primarily by fighting them and proving yourself – just because it is expected. Willis Wu is only just learning to understand that it is very difficult to break free from such way of thinking and to allow yourself to find your own dreams.
This metafiction about self-perception and confrontation with the world is hard to compare to anything – if you’re looking for a fresh outlook, different from the books you’ve been reading recently, Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown will be the perfect choice.