Interior Chinatown by Charles Wu (Fiction)

A bizarre, screenplay format novel told in the second person as Willis Wu describes his life as a series of bit part Asian roles, particularly Generic Asian Man with a dim hope of becoming a specialty character: Kung Fu Guy. Moving from an SRO to the Golden Palace restaurant where the cop show Black and White (starring — wait for it — a black cop and a white cop) is constantly “playing,” we are treated to an ongoing internal monologue where the bitterness is as often directed against himself as to others. Full of a wry humor that derives from essential and uncomfortable truths, the narrative is interspersed with a recitation of U.S. laws aimed specifically at excluding Asians (e.g. the Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882; the SF Bingham Ordinance of 1890; the Geary Act of 1892; the Cable Act of 1920; and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 — look them up — they are appalling) and a pretty compelling speech asking why, after two centuries in America, Asians are not fully assimilated and are not considered “American”? By the way, I particularly enjoyed this quote which I am including out of context:

“What are you looking? Do you think you’re the only group to be invisible? How about: Older women. Older people in general. People that are overweight. People that don’t conform to conventional Western beauty standards. Black women. Women in general in the workplace.”

It’s always irked me that there are so many “groups” which are treated unfairly in one way or the other, but unless you are part of some larger, acknowledged, “oppressed” group, nobody really cares…

In sum: a short book with a pretty interesting message and engaging format.

One thought on “Interior Chinatown by Charles Wu (Fiction)”

  1. Hi Laura, So glad you read this book! I read it over the summer and while I found it confusing at times, I too was struck with all those awful laws and the invisibility of different groups of people. Thanks for the write-up; great way to interrupt my working morning for something fun to read. Cindy

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