“The widest gulf in the world is the distance between getting by, and not getting by.”
Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown
The author of four books and numerous television scripts, Charles Yu won the 2020 National Book Award for Interior Chinatown, an ambitious satire about race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation, and escaping roles we are forced to play.
Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as the protagonist in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but always he is relegated to a prop. Yet every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. Or is it?
In addition to winning the 2020 National Book Award, Charles Yu received the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” Award and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for his work on the HBO series, Westworld. He has also written for shows on FX, AMC, and HBO. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired, among other publications.
Portland Art Museum & Northwest Film Center, December 16, 2020
NPR’s Weekend Edition, January 25, 2020
Los Angeles Review of Books, January 28, 2020
“Interior Chinatown . . . recalls the humorous and heartfelt short stories of George Saunders, the metafictional high jinks of Mark Leyner, and films like The Truman Show.”