Charles Yu on Risk Taking and Writing Untold Narratives – SXSW 2021 Keynote [Video]

Charles Yu, award winning author and screenwriter, sits down with journalist Lisa Ling for a candid conversation about representation of Asians in media, how the two developed their own identities, and ways they are changing the narrative moving forward.

"This idea that Asians are this homogenous, monolithic, successful group is not only wrong, it’s damaging."

Yu's bestselling book Interior Chinatown follows a young actor confined by the stereotypes and cliches of Asian-Americans. The writer speaks of his own struggle to land as a writer, first going to law school like a "good Asian boy" and eventually finding himself writing at every chance he got. He notes rarely, if ever, seeing Asian men working creative jobs in the media.

Tried and true methods of coping with the way others viewed Yu's identity worked until his kids came home from school questioning the same questions he said he learned to dismiss. Along with the ups and downs of guiding his family, he also lives with mixed emotions on the recent success of fellow Asian-Americans in the film and tv world – he speaks of watching audiences celebrate Asians in media and victimizing them the next day.

"The solutions, if there are solutions, will come from community building on a local level."

Yu asks what each of us can do where we live to be a better neighbor and ultimately be a better citizen. And lastly, he challenges communities to have the hard but necessary conversations, paving the way during his Keynote.

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By Hailey Hess