NEA Big Read 2023
NEA Big Read: A Celebration of Charles Yu's Interior Chinatown with Performances by Fang Du and Sami Ma
Thursday, 7:00 pm EDT May 11, 2023
The Center for Fiction
Since 2008, The Center for Fiction has partnered annually with the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read to create dynamic, community-wide, free programming centered around a single work of literature—inspiring meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections.
We couldn’t be more excited about this year’s Big Read title, Interior Chinatown—Charles Yu’s sharply observed satire about racial stereotyping in Hollywood and escaping the roles we are forced to perform, inventively presented in the form of a screenplay. Since it was first published in January of 2020, we have seen a sharp increase in violence against Asian Americans, bringing new urgency to Yu’s sharp rebuke of America’s persistent prejudices.
This event, co-presented by the National Asian American Theatre Company, introduces Interior Chinatown and its innovative form with readings performed by accomplished stage and screen actors Fang Du (Thoroughly Modern Millie national tour) and Sami Ma (Once Upon A (korean) Time). We invite you to join this vibrant celebration of Yu’s groundbreaking novel!
This event, along with all of our NEA Big Read programming, is free, but space is limited. Guests will be admitted on a first-come, first-seated basis.
Fang Du was born in Dandong, China. National Tour: Thoroughly Modern Millie. NY Theatre: Golden Shield (MTC), Golem (La Mama), Julius Caesar (CSC), Low Power (EST), Where Is My Maple Town (Theatre Row). Regional: Henry V (Arkansas Rep), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Fulton Theatre). Film: In A New York Minute, Tomorrow Comes Today, The Assistant. TV: Madam Secretary, The Blacklist, The Haves and The Have Nots, Mr. Robot, Two Sentence Horror Stories. Training: MFA Columbia University; BA, University of Virginia. Proud member of SAG-AFTRA. Always looking forward to the next travel destination with his wife and daughter! Love you, Mom!
Sami (she/hers) is a queer, first-generation daughter of Chinese immigrants enjoying the messy terrain between her traditional Chinese culture and her American upbringing. When not performing, she can usually be found in the kitchen perfecting her family’s passed down recipes or feeding her loved ones absurd amounts of food. Off-Broadway: Once Upon A (korean) Time (Ma-Yi Theatre Company). Select regional credits: The Chinese Lady (Adirondack Theatre Festival & Cincinnati Playhouse), Nativity Variations (Milwaukee Rep), The Great Leap (Portland Center Stage), Vietgone (American Stage), Gloria (Hatch Arts Collective), and 4,000 Miles (Gloucester Stage). TV/Film credits: Tender Ears, Death Saved My Life, and Where the Light Enters. Thank you to The Center for Fiction & NAATCO for having her. For her guardian angel, Jason K. Ma.
By Charles Yu
Published by Knopf Doubleday
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?
After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family. Infinitely inventive and deeply personal, exploring the themes of pop culture, assimilation, and immigration—Interior Chinatown is Charles Yu’s most moving, daring, and masterful novel yet.
About this series
NEA Big Read 2023
The Center for Fiction’s 2023 Big Read initiative focuses on Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, winner of the National Book Award. Our free multidisciplinary public programming includes discussion groups and public events with authors, musicians, and scholars. The Center also connected with younger readers and writers through our signature KidsRead / KidsWrite programming, hosting a teen storyteller contest and offering programs featuring books suitable for younger readers that engage with similar themes.
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