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Summer Reading Assignment

College does not teach you what to think, but rather how to think by giving you the tools to think clearly, critically and strategically. Consider that statement. What does it mean to you? As you prepare for this new chapter in your life, why did you choose to invest in higher education? What are your expectations? What kind of person do you hope to be after college?

WVU's Campus Read

Title: Interior Chinatown A Novel. Charles Yu

Through the Honors College Summer Reading Assignment, you will think critically, consider all options in order to make the best possible decision, and work toward becoming the best version of yourself. Active reflection, after all, is a huge piece of what college is all about, and what makes the college experience something that is invaluable and life changing. 

"Interior Chinatown: A Novel" by Charles Yu has been selected for the 2022-2023 Campus Read at WVU. All students should read this fantastic book during the summer months. 

As an Honors student, we ask that you delve into the material a little deeper and reflect on the book before starting your classes this fall. The Campus Read examines deep, complex issues that may be triggering to some. If you feel the need, please reach out to counselors at the WVU Carruth Center at 304-293-4431 or email wvucccps@mail.wvu.edu

Objectives

If Older Brother is a myth, why do so many people strive to be him? On page 246, Wu shares that he has internalized the role of Generic Asian Man so completely that he’s lost track of where reality starts and the performance begins. In addition, he has let it define how he sees other people. He says he is as guilty of it as anyone. 

Because this book was written as a screenplay, Wu was able to uniquely capture and depict how people take on characters and play roles, consciously or unconsciously. In the end, Wu makes a conscious decision to “exit Chinatown,” a stereotypical construct established by the system. Here in the Honors College, we encourage you to make conscious decisions, too.  

“Instead of co-opting someone else’s experience or consciousness, he must define his own” (p. 235). 

The Honors experience is about becoming more of who you really are, by stripping away the expectations of others and your own expectations of who you think you are supposed to be. We, instead, support you during your time in the Honors College and encourage you to uncover, discover and develop the real you. 

Through the Honors College Summer Reading Assignment, you will think critically, consider all options in order to make the best possible decision, and work toward becoming the best version of yourself. Active reflection, after all, is a huge piece of what college is all about, and what makes the college experience something that is invaluable and life changing. 

"Interior Chinatown," by Charles Yu, has been selected for the 2022-2023 Campus Read at WVU. All students should read this fantastic book during the summer months. As an Honors student, we ask that you delve into the material a little deeper and reflect on the book before starting your classes this fall. 

The Campus Read examines deep, complex issues that may be triggering to some. If you would like to speak with someone, please reach out to counselors at the WVU Carruth Center at 304-293-4431 or email wvucccps@mail.wvu.edu.

What is a Campus Read?

The WVU Campus Read program is an academically-driven common read experience that engages students, faculty, staff and even members of the Morgantown community, to share ideas and think critically through thoughtful dialogue.

We look forward to welcoming you to campus this fall! #WVUReads

Your Assignment

The Honors College has developed four prompts for you based around the reading. Please choose one prompt. 

For essay prompts 1-3, write an essay that is:

Note that prompt 4 involves creation of a TikTok video rather than an essay (see prompt 4 for specific requirements). 

Your essay or video is due on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, by 11:59 p.m. You will submit your essay or video to your HONR 102 mentors via eCampus. eCampus will be available starting Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Prompt 1

On pages 53-56, we read a flashback scene. 

Ma and Kung Fu Kid spend an evening at home. Ma is reading. Kung Fu Kid is perfecting his Kung Fu skills. As he kicks, his foot catches the pot of tea and Ma reaches for it before it scalds him, burning her arms instead. Kung Fu Kid apologizes and Ma asks him to promise her something. 

“Don’t grow up to be King Fu Guy,” she says. “Be more.” 

Kung Fu Kid struggles to imagine what she could possibly mean. 

“Kung Fu Guy is the pinnacle. How could anyone be more?” 

What do you think she means by her request to Kung Fu Kid? How do you make sense of her statement? Use themes in the book to support your response. Specifically, consider Wu’s monologue beginning on page 244 and Old Asian Woman’s remarks on page 256.

Prompt 2

In Act III, Wu shares a story about slowly climbing the ladder from Generic Asian Man #3 to Generic Asian Man #1 in a scene he describes as a "cop show." Wu describes how close he is; close enough to imagine a different life, now that he has a speaking role in the American show: Black and White, no part for yellow. 

The characters, Turner, Green, and Generic Asian Man #1 are at a restaurant to question Old Asian Man when the conversation takes a different turn. On page 94, Green calls Generic Asian Man an “Asian Guy.” When Generic Asian Man confronts Green and Turner about it, Turner reminds Generic Asian Man that he “did this to himself.” On page 95, Turner adds, “... working your way up the system doesn’t mean you beat the system. It strengthens it. It’s what the system depends on.” 

What do you make of Turner’s remarks?  Explain your thought process using other examples from the reading.

Prompt 3

"Always known as a Chinaman, never an American."

      — Charles Yu, "Interior Chinatown"

First, read Wu’s monologue on pages 244-252. 

On page 246, Wu states that he, too, is guilty of playing a role, of letting it define him and of putting himself into a category. He asks, “If someone showed you my picture on the street, how would you describe it? You might say, an Asian fellow. Asian dude. Asian Man. How many of you would say: that’s an American? Who gets to be an American? What does an American look like?” 

How do you answer these questions? Form your responses by incorporating themes from the story.

Prompt 4

This prompt asks you to create a TikTok video rather than write an essay. If you choose this prompt, you will submit your TikTok video to your HONR 102 mentors. Please keep the material and content rated G (for general audiences).

On pages 65-66, Wu provides a description of karaoke time at the Golden Palace Chinese Restaurant. After all the patrons have finished their renditions, Old Asian Man begins to sing “Country Roads” by John Denver. 

On pages 65-66, Wu states, “If you didn’t know it already, now you do: old dudes from rural Taiwan are comfortable with their karaoke and when they do karaoke for some reason they love no one like they love John Denver. Maybe it’s the dream of the open highway. The romantic myth of the West. A reminder that these funny little Orientals have actually been Americans longer than you have. Know something about this country that you haven’t yet figured out.”

Wu goes on to say, “… when he steps up and starts slaying 'Country Roads,' try not to laugh, or wink knowingly or clap a little too hard, because by the time he gets to 'West Virginia, mountain mama,' you’re going to be singing along, and by the time he’s done, you might understand why a seventy-seven-year-old guy from a tiny island in the Taiwan Strait who’s been in a foreign country for two-thirds of his life can nail a song, note perfect, about wanting to go home.” 

Where is the most memorable place you have heard the song “Country Roads” by John Denver? Create a TikTok video describing the most memorable place you’ve heard “Country Roads.” Discuss your thoughts about the “County Roads” passage. How does this song make you feel about home? How do you identify with the song? How does Wu’s description of the person singing the song in the novel influence your feelings towards the song and your home? 

In order to get credit for this prompt, the TikTok video MUST:

  1. Mention the title of the book (Interior Chinatown) and its author (Charles Yu).
  2. Mention why the song is important to the context of the book.
  3. Mention that the book is the 2022-23 WVU Campus Read.
  4. Include the hashtag #WVUReads in the video caption.

How will this assignment be graded?

The assignment will be graded out of a total of up to 100 points. The assignment rubric is available here

Questions

For questions about the summer reading assignment, please contact Dr. Ashley Watts via email at  Ashley.Watts@mail.wvu.edu. 

You can also join us for one of our optional Campus Read Prompt Discussions later this August! (Links will be sent your way closer to the event dates.)

  • Monday, August 8, 2022, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom - Prompt 1 
  • Tuesday, August 9, 2022, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom - Prompt 2 
  • Wednesday, August 10, 2022, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom - Prompt 3 
  • Thursday, August 11, 2022, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom - Prompt 4


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