I’d say this is a 3.5 star book that I’m rounding up! I really enjoyed the whole conceit, but similar to how I think people viewed the Seinfeld finale, the final step of said conceit veered a bit off for my enjoyment.
This is a very meta book, where our main character (Asian Man) is both a person and a background character in a by-the-numbers police procedural, whose filming itself veers between scripted TV and improved real life(?). It’s satire and yet very grounded in real life, with a ring of truth throughout the entire story. Feels very fourth wall breaking and aimless and yet there’s a plot throughout, broken up into acts named for various parts of Willis Wu’s life.
I wonder sometimes if the people reading these novels are actually being educated when it comes to things like systemic anti-Asian (specifically Chinese) racism. As in, if you’re going to pick up a book called Interior Chinatown after reading the blurb, is it going to surprise you to learn that the US passed a law called the Chinese Exclusion Act and that legal immigration from Asia was suspended for the majority of the 1900s? Maybe I just happen to know about these things because I am, myself, the beneficiary of liberalized policies towards immigrants of Asian descent.
That aside, I in particular enjoyed the elucidation of “otherness” through the lens of being a background character in film/TV productions. The Tragic Backstory of his father, both infuriating and heartbreaking and pointedly cliche–after all, what is a wise Asian Sifu without a tragic backstory? Preferably one involving Triads. The evolution of his mother from whistled-at Asian Pretty Girl to Older Asian Woman (But Still Pretty). Willis’ own experiences follow the tired path: Asian Man 3, Asian Man 2, Asian Man 1, Speaking Role, Guest Star!…Tragic Death (wait for some time, then you can come back).