You Read Interior Chinatown: What’s Next?

Tara Pai

Finished Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown? Loved it? Wish there was more? Add these six books featuring traditionally-underrepresented perspectives to your reading list.

Lexington High School’s first community read, Interior Chinatown, provided students with a narrative to reflect on the Asian-American experience. This list contains three novels to expand on this reflection of what it means to a minority in America, as well as three more suggestions that can be found in the school library.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez

Experience the lives of two Latinx teenagers as members of immigrant families in America. 

Maribel Rivera nearly dies after falling from a ladder and heads to America to receive the treatment she needs, thus leaving her life in Mexico behind. In America, Rivera meets her neighbor, Mayor Toro from Panama, who is one of few who can see her broken soul. Follow their journey together in this tale of love and belonging.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

New York Times best-selling author and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Jhumpa Lahiri tells the story of a Bengali family’s immigrant  journey and experience in America. 

Moving from Calcutta, India to Cambridge, Massachusetts, newlyweds Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, struggle to find their place in society. The couple feels a sense of betrayal towards their culture and traditions when they nickname their son Gogol, after a Russian author. This book explores Gogol’s life and follows his development as a first-generation American who is the son of two Indians with an unconventional name.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Learn about the issues faced by a Black high school student as he tries to fit in and discovers the reason why he can’t.

Justyce McAllister is a Black high school student at the top of his class with high aspirations. However, his world gets turned upside down when he is arrested. McAllister begins to write a series of letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to understand his unfair treatment in American society. The novel culminates in a scene in which McAllister gains attention after being involved in a fatal encounter with a white police officer.

Top reads from the librarians:

Discover and experience diverse and powerful stories selected by LHS librarian Harriet Wallen.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

This story follows three Chinese American kids and explores each of their interrelated lives.  The relationship between the characters becomes apparent with a sudden, unexpected twist. Told in a graphic novel format, this book explores the problems young Chinese Americans face in an intriguing and captivating manner. 

“Like Interior Chinatown, I think it can appeal to multiple kinds of readers,” Wallen said.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Black teenager Starr Carter’s delicate balance between life in a poor neighborhood and at an affluent suburban preparatory school is broken when her close friend is wrongly shot by a police officer. What really happened that day is up in the air, and only Starr knows the truth. Starr grapples with the pressure knowing that her words could endanger both her life and the lives of those around her. Join Starr as she navigates a sea of struggles and the inequality that comes with being an African American.

The Hate U Give is a popular pick among students at LHS. 

“This is the one everyone was looking to read and it was constantly out of the library,” Wallen said.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Rukhsana Ali, a 17-year-old student, is excited to go to Caltech to pursue her goals. When her Muslim parents realize that she is gay, an alien concept in traditional Muslim society, they quickly send her off to Bangladesh. In this novel of self-discovery, the protagonist navigates new challenges in a world of arranged, heterosexual marriages.

Unlike many of the other books in this list that depict entire families trying to find their place in American society, this novel focuses on a family’s rejection of what is acceptable in American society and their child’s response.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali stood out to Wallen. “I read a lot of [books about minorities in America], that one was good,” Wallen said.

If none of these books are your cup of tea, Wallen encourages a visit to the library. 

“We try our best to buy books that reflect our community… there should be something for everybody and we’re happy to help people find things,” Wallen said.