Our February 2021 pick for Now Read This, the PBS NewsHour’s book club with The New York Times, is Charles Yu’s “Interior Chinatown,” which won the 2020 National Book Award for fiction.
This satirical novel centers around Willis Wu, an Asian actor who is typecast to fill Hollywood stereotypes in television such as “Generic Asian Man” or “Background Oriental Making a Weird Face.” He has a small part on a cop show called “Black and White,” but dreams of one day playing “Kung Fu Guy,” which he sees as the “pinnacle” role he could be offered.
“Ever since you were a boy, you’ve dreamt of being Kung Fu Guy,” Yu writes. “You’re not Kung Fu Guy. But maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be the day.”
Written as a teleplay, the novel offers a darkly humorous commentary on racism and representation in the entertainment industry.
Yu, who has written for television shows including “Westworld,” has “showcased his ability to revitalize familiar tropes like time travel” in previous works such as his 2010 novel, “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe,” wrote Jeff VanderMeer in a New York Times book review. In “Interior Chinatown,” he “expands upon this approach in brilliant and unexpected ways.”
Yu will join the PBS NewsHour to answer your questions at the end of the month. We hope you’ll read along.