Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. From the author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe comes a deeply personal novel about race, pop culture, assimilation, and escaping the roles we are forced to play.
One of the funniest books of the year has arrived, a delicious, ambitious Hollywood satire ... This stripped-down format is the perfect delivery system for the satire of Interior Chinatown. Ridiculous assumptions pop ... While sticking to the screenplay form, Yu bends it enough to go deeper — long descriptive passages become mini short stories ... Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Tom Stoppard’s famous play, the characters see and comment on the artifice of their creation ... It’s mind-bending storytelling, not easy to pull off. Yu does it with panache.
Charles Yu specializes in ferreting out that peculiar angle, that spark of the unexpected, that re-illumination of an otherwise age-old narrative, and then taking that fantastical story element and spreading it horizontally until it coats the entirety of his writing’s universe ... It’s speculative in its surreal setting. It’s family drama in the centrality of family relationships. It’s satire in its political and social commentary. It’s comedic. It’s literary. It’s weird and experimental. It’s an identity story couched in a kind of a fantasy setting, a kind of a George Saundersesque alternate reality. It’s all of those things, but maybe mostly, it’s allegory. And Yu does allegory as well as anybody, taking an outrageous concept and using it to communicate the dire mundanity and the resonant emotional struggles of the human experience ... What does it all mean? And in this case, Yu’s novel answers in a refreshingly accessible way. Despite the mind-bending premise, Yu takes special care to present his themes of Asian-American identity straightforwardly within the novel’s narrative. In doing so, Yu’s writing adeptly straddles the border between storytelling and Asian-American Studies seminar ... All told, Yu is most successful when both the artistic and political conceits act as an entryway to his presentation of the human condition. We are compelled by the socio-racial commentary, and we’re delighted and amused by the form and setting. The details meticulously crafted, render a universe that feels complete to the touch ... Against the backdrop of this experiential normalcy, Yu tells us about ourselves with his haunting depictions of the immigrant experience, familial relationships, and the abiding desire to break from the pressures of conformity and live an authentic life.
Charles Yu was a story editor for Westworld, and his bracingly metafictive second novel, Interior Chinatown, takes the theme of social roles beautifully sideways. The novel skewers pop-culture stereotypes of Asian Americans and contends, memorably, with assimilation ... Arranged in acts and told in the second person in the form of a screenplay, Interior Chinatown is bold, even groundbreaking, in its form. It’s full of clever wordplay and in-jokes about the Chinese American experience ... Interior Chinatown solders together mordant wit and melancholic whimsy to produce a moving exploration of race and assimilation that shouldn’t be missed by intellectually adventurous readers.