Interior Chinatown

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Interior Chinatown
First edition cover
AuthorCharles Yu
Audio read byJoel de la Fuente[1]
Cover artistTyler Comrie[2]
CountryUnited States
PublisherPantheon Books
Publication date
January 28, 2020
Media typePrint (hardcover), e-book, audiobook
AwardsNational Book Award for Fiction (2020)
ISBN978-0-307-90719-6 (hardcover)
LC ClassPS3625.U15 I58 2020

Interior Chinatown is a 2020 novel by Charles Yu. It is his second novel and was published by Pantheon Books on January 28, 2020.[3][4][5][6] It won the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.[7] The novel was also longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction[8] and was shortlisted for the Prix Médicis étranger.[9]


The novel uses the narrative structure of the screenplay format to tell the tale of Willis Wu, the "Generic Asian Man" who is stuck playing "Background Oriental Male" and occasionally "Delivery Guy" in the fictional police procedural Black and White but who longs to be "Kung Fu Guy" on screens worldwide.[10]


Interior Chinatown was published in hardcover, e-book and audiobook format by Pantheon Books on January 28, 2020.[3] The audiobook was narrated by actor Joel de la Fuente.[1]

On January 27, 2020, Yu appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to discuss the book, as well as the lack of on-screen representation for Asian Americans and the model minority stereotype of Asian Americans.[11] Yu also discussed the novel in an interview with Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday on January 25, 2020,[12] and in an appearance on Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) Radio Hour with Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf on February 3, 2020.[13]

In an interview with Timothy Tau for Hyphen, Yu remarked that his influences for the novel included Paul Beatty's Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Sellout as well as the "cyclical structure" of the film Groundhog Day.[14]


At the review aggregator website Book Marks, which assigns individual ratings to book reviews from mainstream literary critics, the novel received a cumulative "Rave" rating based on 12 reviews: 6 "Rave" reviews and 6 "Positive" reviews.[15]

Kirkus Reviews called the novel an "acid indictment of Asian stereotypes and a parable for outcasts feeling invisible in this fast-moving world."[16] Carolyn Kellogg of The Washington Post praised Yu's screenplay format as "the perfect delivery system for the satire of Interior Chinatown."[10] Anita Felicelli of the San Francisco Chronicle called the novel's format "groundbreaking" and wrote that Yu "solders together mordant wit and melancholic whimsy to produce a moving exploration of race and assimilation."[17] Pete Hsu of the Los Angeles Review of Books praised the accessibility of the novel's allegory and its commentary on the human condition, as well as the "meticulously crafted" details of the novel which "render a universe that feels complete to the touch."[18] Josh Denslow of the Washington Independent Review of Books wrote that the story is "told with humor and affection and a deep understanding of human nature."[19]

Jaclyn Fulwood of Shelf Awareness wrote, "Yu's format-bending, deeply felt examination of the American dream is an exercise in encouraged empathy."[20] Ken Smith of the Asian Review of Books wrote, "Though much of his protagonist's insecurities are narrowly focused—not just Asian, but specifically Asian American—his accumulation of concerns becomes surprisingly and relatably inclusive."[21]

The novel was also reviewed in The New York Times Book Review,[22] The New York Times,[23] Booklist,[24] the New York Journal of Books,[25] The Washington Times,[26] The Harvard Crimson,[27] the Chicago Review of Books,[28] and[29]

Television adaptation[edit]

In October 2020, Hulu announced that they would be adapting the novel into a TV series.[30] In 2022, details emerged that Taika Waititi would be an executive producer, Jimmy O. Yang will be starring as Willis Wu, and that Charles Yu would be the showrunner.[31]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Ref.
2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction Longlisted [32]
2020 National Book Award for Fiction Won [33]
2020 Prix Médicis étranger Shortlisted [9]


  1. ^ a b "Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu". Penguin Random House Audio. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu". Penguin Random House. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  3. ^ Collis, Clark (January 23, 2020). "Westworld writer Charles Yu managed to confuse even himself creating meta-novel Interior Chinatown". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  4. ^ Kandil, Caitlin Yoshiko (March 9, 2020). "'Interior Chinatown' author Charles Yu reflects on the Asian American experience and living in Irvine". Daily Pilot. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  5. ^ Harvilla, Rob (January 29, 2020). "The Multiple Dimensions of Charles Yu". The Ringer. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  6. ^ Alter, Alexandra (November 18, 2020). "Charles Yu Wins National Book Award for 'Interior Chinatown'". The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  7. ^ "2021 Winners". Reference & User Services Association (RUSA). October 18, 2020. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Prix Médicis : Éric Reinhardt, Camille de Toledo et Hervé Le Tellier dans la deuxième sélection, Emmanuel Carrère n'y figure plus". France Info (in French). October 3, 2020. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Kellogg, Carolyn (January 27, 2020). "Charles Yu's 'Interior Chinatown' brilliantly skewers Hollywood typecasting". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  10. ^ "Interview – Charles Yu – Tackling On-Screen Asian Representation with "Interior Chinatown" – Extended Interview". The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Comedy Central. January 27, 2020. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Simon, Scott (January 25, 2020). "'Interior Chinatown' Puts That Guy In The Background Front And Center". Weekend Edition Saturday. NPR. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  12. ^ "Literary LA: Satire, Metafiction, Anti-Racist Critique in Charles Yu's "Interior Chinatown"". Los Angeles Review of Books. February 3, 2020. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  13. ^ Timothy Tau, INTERIOR CHINATOWN WINS NATIONAL BOOK AWARD: Q&A with Charles Yu, Hyphen Magazine,
  14. ^ "Book Marks reviews of Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu". Book Marks. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  15. ^ "Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu". Kirkus Reviews. October 28, 2019. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  16. ^ Felicelli, Anita (January 21, 2020). "Review: Hilarious 'Interior Chinatown' skewers Asian American stereotypes". Datebook. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  17. ^ Hsu, Pete (January 28, 2020). "All the World's a Stage: On Charles Yu's "Interior Chinatown"". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  18. ^ Denslow, Josh (February 26, 2020). "Interior Chinatown: A Novel". Washington Independent Review of Books. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  19. ^ Fulwood, Jaclyn (December 16, 2019). "Review: Interior Chinatown". Shelf Awareness. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  20. ^ Smith, Ken (March 8, 2020). ""Interior Chinatown" by Charles Yu". Asian Review of Books. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  21. ^ VanderMeer, Jeff (February 28, 2020). "A Devastating (and Darkly Hilarious) New Novel From the 'Westworld' Writer Charles Yu". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  22. ^ Sternbergh, Adam (January 22, 2020). "With His Fourth Book, Charles Yu Finally Feels Like a Writer". The New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  23. ^ Hong, Terry. "Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu". Booklist Online. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  24. ^ Lin, Ho (January 28, 2020). "Interior Chinatown: A Novel". New York Journal of Books. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  25. ^ Hopley, Claire (January 28, 2020). "BOOK REVIEW: 'Interior Chinatown'". The Washington Times. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  26. ^ Chen, Kelsey (January 26, 2020). "Charles Yu's 'Interior Chinatown' Delivers A Political Message You Need to Hear". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  27. ^ Moore, Taylor (February 24, 2020). "Transcending "Kung Fu Guy"". Chicago Review of Books. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  28. ^ Shea, Roz (February 7, 2020). "Review: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu". Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  29. ^ Thorne, Will (October 15, 2020). "Hulu Adapting Charles Yu Novel 'Interior Chinatown' for Television (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  30. ^ Bell, BreAnna (October 13, 2022). "Hulu Orders 'Interior Chinatown' to Series With Jimmy O. Yang to Star, Taika Waititi to Direct". Variety. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  31. ^ "2021 Winners". Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  32. ^ "National Book Awards 2020". National Book Foundation. Retrieved February 8, 2021.