Charles Yu explores the clichés that Hollywood perpetuates about Asian Americans in this inventive and sharp novel. The book centers on Willis Wu, an actor who has had to suffer through various drearisome and offensive supporting roles including “Background Oriental Male,” “Dead Asian Man” and “Generic Asian Man Number Three/Delivery Guy.” Currently, he is appearing on a Law & Order-esque show starring a Black man and a white woman, pointedly named Black and White. (Yu delights in such jabs at Hollywood’s toxic tropes.) But Willis dreams of someday becoming “Kung Fu Guy,” in his estimation the best character that an Asian actor can hope for in a racist industry. The entire story is written as a screenplay, an ingenious decision that nods to Yu’s work as a screenwriter on mind-bending shows like Westworld. Yu saves Interior Chinatown from getting lost in its own metafiction by grounding the story in a tangible set—a rundown apartment building in Los Angeles’s Chinatown occupied by first- and-second generation immigrants. There, the social and economic consequences of racism are most obvious and heart-wrenching.
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