Feb 16, 2023 - Things to Do

Philadelphia's 2023 book of the year: “Interior Chinatown”

Illustration of a book surrounded by a line of velvet rope.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Philly’s all-city read this year is “Interior Chinatown” by Charles Yu.

What’s happening: The novel was selected as the 2023 One Book, One Philadelphia, which is run by the Free Library and the city.

Why it matters: The literary program encourages residents to read and discuss the same book, while promoting literacy and the importance of libraries.

Zoom in: Yu’s 2020 “Interior Chinatown” is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2020 National Book Award for fiction.

  • Yu has written for HBO’s “Westworld” and co-produced FX’s “Legion.”

How it works: Members of the Free Library can pick up copies of “Interior Chinatown” at their local library or download an audiobook or ebook.

  • The program, which runs from April 20 to June 22, features book discussions, panels, cooking programs, workshops and film screenings.

Details: Written as a screenplay, the humorous Hollywood satire follows “Generic Asian Man” and actor Willis Wu in his efforts to move from an extra to a starring role.

  • The book “explores in devastating (and darkly hilarious) fashion Hollywood’s penchant for promoting clichés about Asians and Asian-Americans,” per The New York Times.

Quick tip: The book is short and could be read in a single sitting.

Zoom in: Philadelphia’s own Chinatown is currently at a crossroads as the community debates the 76ers’ proposal to build a new stadium on the neighborhood’s border.

  • The city’s Chinatown has fought off large-scale developments for decades in an effort to preserve the neighborhood from gentrification and displacement.

What he's saying: Yu tells Axios the book's lighter tone could offer a way to start difficult conversations around race, representation and perceptions.

  • "Willis, who is an Asian guy in America, ... is someone who is marginalized," he says. "It gives you an inside voice that you don't normally get to see a lot of. "

Of note: Youth companion titles are “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang and “Drawn Together” by Minh Lê.

What to watch: Hulu is currently developing the book into a series.


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