National Book Award winner Charles Yu satirizes humor with cultural criticism

When Charles Yu took the National Book Award for Fiction last week for his novel “Interior Chinatown”, he celebrated in an unconventional way: he changed out of the black suit he wore back into the shorts he wore throughout the ceremony took. Shared the pandemic and a frozen pizza with his family.

“I forgot to thank my parents and my wife and my children and it’s honestly eating me alive,” Yu told NBC Asian America, noting that he didn’t write the speech because he didn’t believe it That he will win. . “My publisher’s wonderful people sent a bottle of champagne and that’s why I wasn’t super consistent.”

Thirteen years ago, the National Book Foundation first recognized U as the “Five Under 35” honor for its first short story collection, “Third Class Superheroes”.

A former corporate lawyer, 44-year-old Yu said he is shocked that he holds one of the country’s most prestigious literary awards, including authors such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth and Tony Morrison. .

“I still look at literature with this sense of reverence, and it’s probably part of the psychology of growing up like I don’t want to be on stage, so I’m very uncomfortable with it,” he said. “I think I will always do the best I can and feel the best when I stand in the corner watching and reading other people’s books.”

In a fictionalized Chinatown, the humorous and sometimes heartbreaking Hollywood satire follows Willis Wu, an American actor from Taiwan playing backdrop roles such as “Generic Asian Man,” “Silent Hatchman,” and “Delivery Guy”. Known as police procedural. Black and white ”television show is being produced in a Chinese restaurant in the Golden Palace.

“Interior Chinatown,” by Charles Yu.Old books

Wu, who dreams of becoming a “Kung Fu Guy” one day, struggles to figure out where he is on screen, in life and in the black-white binary paradigm of race.

Written as a screenplay and narrated in the second person, the immersive novel examines identity, Asian stereotypes and the roles we are allowed to play on screen and beyond.

Yu said, “Among the stories I consumed, the invisibility of Asians was speaking to me at one level, until I wrote the book, I couldn’t complete the process.” Yu, an Emmy-winning writer and actor.

“How much of your mind is there to say, I don’t see myself and others don’t see me as someone who can be in this kind of story or this kind of life?” You cannot be the main character; If you are in the story then it is a very specific type of role or really as a backdrop or furniture, and that kind of takes away your personality. “

Yu tried to write a book that became an “interior Chinatown” for many years, saying that its current version would not take shape until 2017. “It was completely tied to Donald Trump’s election as president,” he said, adding that his own family experiences helped inspire the narrative. “It just gave such a new urge; This made me think that I should understand what I am trying to say.

He said that the novel has a temper of humor, but that does not mean that it is off the weight of the issues that it explores. “What I’m trying to talk about is that people, particularly Asians, have been excluded from being Americans for decades, and they are not the only group,” he said.

Hulu is currently developing “Interior Chinatown” as a series and Yu is adopting his own work. He said that his goal is to find a way to translate the novel’s unusual form onto the screen by telling a story “in a way that will shake people with patterns of thinking, the way I am trying to do with the book” Was. “

U is known for writing meta and complex work. His 2010 novel, “How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe,” features a time-machine repairman named Charles Yu and his 2012 short story collection, “Sorry Please Thank You,” populated with virtual warriors and a company Has been: Grief for profit.

A self-described strange kid who loved to read and “worked hard with everything,” Yu was a pre-med student at the University of California, Berkeley, when he came home one semester and told his parents that He wants to be a poet. The father’s son, an aerospace engineer and mother who worked as a school district accountant, said, “I didn’t go to super super.”

Responsible and as a financially independent member of the family, Yu preferred to attend law school.

“In some cases it was not easy how you feel like a responsible child, knowing what my parents have done and done? I did not want to disappoint [my parents], And I wanted to be able to take care of myself. “

But the urge to write was still there. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 2001, Yu started writing fiction, but worked as a lawyer for 13 years before focusing all his time writing books and television.

Nearly 20 years later, Yu is a permanent part of American literature for the National Book Award. And when he is honored, he is appreciative to hear from readers who say they look like in “interior Chinatown”.

“It never stops being a reminder to me that as much as I can think I’m scrambling alone, when the book reaches people and finds a reader, when it’s really all alone in the metro or their house Connects with someone sitting, it’s a real relationship. “

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