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Keynote: Charles Yu in Conversation with Lisa Ling | SXSW 2021

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SXSW 2021
March 19, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
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Keynote: Charles Yu in Conversation with Lisa Ling | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Charles Yu
Author
Lisa Ling
Executive Producer, Host at CNN

CHARLES YU is the author of four books, including his latest, Interior Chinatown, which was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. He has written for shows on HBO, FX, AMC, Facebook Watch, and Adult Swim. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in a number of publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harper's, and Wired, among other publications. He lives in southern California with his family.

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Lisa is the Executive Producer and host of THIS IS LIFE on CNN, now its seventh season. For the show, Lisa has embedded with a notorious biker club and covered the pill addiction crisis in the mostly Mormon state of Utah.For five seasons prior, Lisa EP’d and hosted Our America on OWN. She was also a field correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and contributor to ABC News' Nightline. For these shows she reported from dozens of countries; covering stories about gang rape in the Congo, bride burning in India andthe Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, among other issues that are too often ignored.Lisa was the first female host of National Geographic’s flagship show Explorer which sent her to cover the phenomenon of female suicide bombing, the spread of the MS-13 gang—considered the world’s most dangerous gang, and the humanitarian crisis inside North Korea.She got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age. She later went to become a co-host of ABC Daytime's hit show The View, which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show.Lisa is the co-author of “Mother, Sister. Daughter, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood,” and “Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and The Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home” that she penned with her sister Laura.

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About the talk

CHARLES YU is the author of four books as well as a screenwriter for various shows on HBO, FX and AMC. He’s also contributed pieces for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper's, and The Atlantic. His latest novel, the captivating and uniquely written "Interior Chinatown," was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.

Yu, in conversation with Lisa Ling, discusses his work, both as an author and screenwriter. Join in to hear them share thoughts on a number of topics including the creative writing process, identity, the importance of representation, and anti-Asian sentiment in the United States.

This Keynote was recorded before the Atlanta shootings of March 16, 2021.


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Hi everyone. Hi Charles you. I am so thrilled to get this opportunity to talk to you at. I have to discuss for a second and tell you that I am such a fan and I just truly adored this book. It's one of the most inventive things that I've ever read. It was hysterical but also so heartfelt and when I was asked to moderate this conversation is I jumped at the opportunity cuz I just want to get inside that head of yours is such a such a clever stick one. I read it in about two days,

but I heard that it took you seven years to write. Why did it take so long? What highway is the wing is really incredible to be talking to you. I I can't thank you enough for for, you know, Green to do this and it's a good question. I don't know why it took so long, I guess life. You know, it was got my wife and I have two kids and I was working as a lawyer but really those are excuses. It took a long time because you know, I needed to find the right way to tell the story and even after I found this kind of strange way into the story. I

had to work through it for a couple of years to figure it out. One, for those of you who haven't read the book, when when Charles talks about this strange way, I mean, it is written in the form of a, of a teleplay of a of a script, which is why it's so unique. But you mentioned, Charles that, that you were a lawyer. You went to law school, like a good Asian boy. When did when did becoming a writer enter your consciousness? Well, I mean, I went to law school, like a good Asian boy,

but not that good because the original plan was medical school and that didn't work out for me. And also for the world. Because it's a good thing. I'm not a doctor. I think your husband is a doctor. Is that right? So, I'm not a grown up. Exactly. So I was like, I can't imagine someone's wife in my hand. So yeah, after medical school didn't work out. I I went to law school thinking. Well, this is a responsible thing to do, you know, financially and sort of

You know, my parents are immigrants from Taiwan and they came here and worked really hard. And I thought if I just go and, you know, pursue whatever I want to it won't, it just didn't feel responsible that time. So I thought I'd lost cool. You know, I got to read and write it's sort of like, what I like to do, but, but I think somewhere, in the back of my head, all along, I wanted to write, I just didn't know how, or when that would happen. Exactly. An in touch about some of your influences. I mean,

you you you you seem like you had that kind of that burning desire. That you were probably repressing, but what was it? That inspired you to want to do it? You know, I don't know. I think I think from like a young age, I was writing poems. I remember. Like when I was in elementary school at our teacher, took us to Yosemite for this trip and night at he found out like during the week that I've been writing these little problems and so I guess I was I was interested in writing from when I was a kid but then I just didn't

exactly know like is that a job you know like how do you become a writer? Or do you just do it? And and then when I graduated from Law School, I went to work at one of these big law firms and I was really scared cuz I was like, well, I don't think I can handle this. I think they're going to figure out pretty quickly that, you know, I don't belong here and I got to kick me out but, you know, the sort of a lot of pressure in trying to fit into that environment. And I think something about that made me want to carve out a little space of my own and that just took the

form of these, you know, the short story is that. I started to write that were I didn't even think of them as stories first, you know, they were like things that I would scribbled in the margin of like a legal pad or like email myself a sentence so that I wouldn't forget it and later that night I go back to it if you like or what is this. And you know for many years I was writing and working as a lawyer at the same time and they were just two very separate things. But yeah, I don't know exactly what influenced I mean I always love to read. I loved Stories in

something about being in control of the story has always appealed to me and invest what you can do with writing, you can do it by yourself. When did you make that transition to become a full-time writer because I imagine, you know, working as a lawyer, there is a certain aspect of security there. So when did you actually make that transition and and sort of recognized the fact that like I can do this like I can make a career out of this. Yeah, it does. It was a few

years ago when I started writing full-time, but it didn't happen overnight. You know, I graduate from law school about 20 years ago and I only started writing full-time, like 6 years ago. So, for most of the time I've been writing I had a job, you know. And when I first published a book, it was 2006 is a short story collection. And, you know, I remember how excited I was it was thrilling to find out how I'm going to have a book in the world, right, that's it. Just this huge

milestone and I something I kind of never thought would happen. And at the same time, you know, the realities of that, you know, it's a short story collection is like looking at my first, you know, installment of the advance and realizing, oh yeah, I have to keep a job here. So from the beginning, I really didn't think this is something I'm going to leave the law for it's just something that I my passion and I had to do it, you know? And I I found myself doing it, you know, late nights, I'd sneak an

hour after the kids are down or very early when I get up with the baby here, trying to think or read and then a few years ago I got lucky enough to get, you know, I got a call, I was working as a lawyer at a tech company in LA and I got a call at work asking if I'd come interview for a job on this HBO show Westworld And thought this can't be real you know and also there's no way I'll get this job but then I went and asked me for some reason. So that was really the transition. So since then I've been writing for TV and film. And so that's my new

day job, you know, like my my first love, you know, what to write fiction? And just basically sit in a room by myself in this room actually by myself, first love. But I also, you know, I need health insurance and that's everything. So The Writers Guild has been very crucial to our family's well-being in that respect. What casino in some ways interior? Chinatown has allowed you to meld write a number of different things given that it's as if it's written as a teleplay, I'm in what I found. So interesting about the book is just

how how the characters in it are described and in some ways as a means to call up these stereotypical almost like identity list roles that the media has projected of agent. Generic Asian, Man, Kung Fu man. And the titles are the names of the of the characters in this book. And I wonder about the kinds of images that you saw as a kid or growing up of Asian people, and, and the impact that your perception of of Asians in Hollywood had on, on writing this book, Yeah, I know, it's a great.

It's a great connective tissue, you know. I think that you the way he framed it is is really right on its I grew up in the eighties and nineties having never seen an Asian really on TV, you know, it'll be like a once-a-year occurrence, like I'll look. And, and then quickly, the excitement is quickly, followed by the feeling of. Oh, yeah, he's delivering food or you speaking with an accent, that sounds pretty fake, martial arts, right? And so that experience kind of mirrors in a lot of ways, I think my own experience as an Asian-American, there's a sense of which,

in which I'm mostly feeling invisible. You know the way Asian characters are were invisible in screen punctuated by brief moments of visibility is often accompanied by a sort of self-consciousness or even shame. Because it's like, oh, here's my brief window of his ability in. This is what it is, you know, it's in this very narrow slot, certain defined roles as you said, certain things that, you know, it's like keep all the Asian stuff over here in this corner of thing. So we'll do a very special episode that set in Chinatown

or, you know, Asian characters have to sort of present a certain way on TV and filming. And I think that really sort of shaped might sort of Consciousness in terms of Where do I fit into the story in a? Where do my parents fit into the story and and all of their generation and do my friends. And now that I'm a dad, where will my kids been into the store and you having been born here, you know and and so I I think all of that kind of was in the mix as I was writing the book,

Well, I, I know exactly what you're talking about. For me, I was babysat by the television because my parents were working all the time. They were divorced when I was young, but I looked or are the people that I was watching on television, look, nothing like me, except for Connie Chung. And and at the time, she was the embodiment of intelligence and Grace. And so I thought, well, if Connie Chung can do this, maybe I can do this as well and I would venture to Guess that almost every Asian journalist of my generation. I think I'm a bit older than you would cite Connie

Chung as their inspiration because for me she she represented. What was possible? Did you did you have anyone who represented what was possible for you and and and how would you define representation? Yeah, it's a really good question and not to throw it back at you. But it is I think I want to say it was either in college or just out of college. When you first started turning up on the view is it going to say like late 90s? Maybe I got your 97. So, okay. That was a big deal. You know how, you know, like who is this

like a big show of the day where you just feel like that was that was notable. I'm trying to think I mean, I didn't, you know, I certainly well I guess if I remember at Berkeley taking an Asian American studies class, I think it was Asian American studies 20 or something like that. It's like this big survey class. And they're really being kind of exposed to some ideas and some history, and some readings. Of course, I'd grown up. My, my parents are actually

active in the taiwanese-american community and had the courage. My brother needs to be part of that, likely gone to camps and, and things like that, and then voter registration and internships. But I think it wasn't until I sort of left the house and had to serve. Start to build my Identity On My Own that it kind of came full circle. I said, oh, even though I may not always feel like I'm, you know, an outsider increasingly, I started to feel like I didn't quite fit in and it was a surprising thing cuz I did Growing Up in Southern

California. I think acceptance was the sort of thing I could take for granted another enough Asian in Asian Americans around that it was no as tolerant and as inclusive and environment as there was going to be for someone, you know, like me and and then kind of going out into the world and especially when I take when I move to New York for law school, it was a little bit eye-opening. And so I think that You know what one? I think I Stray very far from the original question. Will never be interested in

talking about how you there were Asians, are you grew up with in your community. So did that slipped with what you were seeing in film and television and and really that the lack of representation or the stereotypical displays of what being Asian was supposed to look like, It did. Yeah, it there was this weird kind of dual reality. There was what I saw in my life, you know, with my family and friends and in the community going out to eat in Monterey Park, or whatever, on the weekends or Torrance and Asians, in

the world Monterey Park Torrance, there are lots, of those communities. So that's kind of Yeah. Yeah. So I had to do a reality reality and then TV reality, you know they like cultural reality of and those two things there was this big disconnect rate of like how come this doesn't match that? And what does that do to you? You know, as you're watching that both, I think both for asian-americans and for everyone else, to to say, well I know Asian, my dentist is Asian or whatever. You know, by my neighbor is Asian, my classmate is coworkers. But in these

stories, we tell ourselves on the start of biggest platform. They don't figure into the story and when they do it's a certain kind of story. Like what does that do overtime in terms of like shaping your perception of sort of you know, who What is a, what is this country? Really so, you know, it on one level and at the same time, you're not seeing it. And I think that has an effect on everyone. Not just asian-americans in terms of when you close your eyes and think what is an American in a picture in American. If you're going to

picture like a Benetton ad or Levi's ad, is this the first base you pitch in? I like I wouldn't picture my face first, you know, and what does that say? That that's, you know, it it seems. like a just like a break from reality in terms of what we're actually seeing on screen, And do you think that may have been one of the reasons why you didn't think to pursue a career in media as a young person to begin with? I think that had there been better representation. You

might have just decided. Let's bypass Law School, Medical Supply Moscow, altogether and just go for it because there were examples of people who were doing it I think so. I think, if I had seen, you know, A very clear model or path. I might have been brave enough to take the risk. You took, you mentioned Connie Chung and said there was a model, but still it's a huge breakthrough to be certain you know, really a pint of Trailblazer in a field and I I was

very risk-averse. You know. I, I think even before I was a lawyer, I just I lived kind of trying to not make mistakes, you know, rather than like As if it's like, how many things can you get? Correct. It's more like, how many mistakes? You're how many like incorrect things are going to? Are you going to do? And I was always afraid of that, you know, I wanted to minimize the number of things I did wrong, rather than take risks and try to do things that might connect with something. And I think that's even true of my

writing. Now, in the way I should have, Right now I'm not moving around 11. Usually when I'm on a zoom I'm constantly just don't like moving around cuz I don't even like the way I'm sitting in the front it's just a constant self-consciousness, you know, and same with my talking, it's my wife is like, told me. I used to do an entry totally right about this, that she's being kind and helpful. And she's like, I'm not I don't want to make it sound like she's criticizing me which is sometimes when someone asks you a question you do everything you answer everything but the question that is

true and it's like I don't, you know, I'm good in like the tenth draft. I'm not good in the first draft. I think there's just this fear and I'm trying to get back around 2, but you passed me from me there's this. I do think it stems in some way, from being Asian-American, from being From having grown up feeling like very tentative, you know, very much feeling like I don't know. How much you accept me? I don't even know how much I accept myself. There's this like this deep uncertainty or feeling like I might get kicked out of

the place at any moment, you know, the root not like I do, I don't know what I mean by that invisibility. I think that irrespective of whether we grew up among a lot of Asians are not. We have just felt in this country is at some point or another. We have made been made to feel invisible or, or as, as as an outsider. And I think that the media which is the most powerful Arbiter of culture has not helped the situation to the contrary up until recently as your book. So brilliantly lays out, you know, Asian people Just kind of in the background and

never never had the starring role in if they did. It was a specific role. It was kung fu man. Right. And so, do you think now that you are in the business? Do you, do you have a desire to change things? Do you think that you have been able to change things or make an impact in the in shaping, how people perceive Asians in the media? I mean, I hope to someday. I don't think I have gotten there. I hope this, you know, I hope I writing this book and getting to have conversations with people. I mean with with you here, for South by Southwest obviously is extremely

exciting. But over the past year, I've had, you know, dozens of meetings with book clubs, in with groups in universities. I mean all virtually so tall in this room, actually travel the world. and that's really, why I wrote it you know to to connect with people just to say here's something that is Maybe weird and private, you know, from one one person sort of experience and and Consciousness and putting it in this form and somehow transmitting, it and then all of a sudden people feel like there's a, some kind of

shared experience, that that's extremely Gratifying thing to, to be having this conversation, you don't want a larger level. I, I hope, you know, I hope I get to make a show and and, and in some ways tell the story on an even bigger platform, I am, you know, developing interior, China Town at the moment for, for Hulu. So we'll see if that actually ends up, you know. Becoming a show and then maybe starting more conversations. How would you, how would you assess for the state

of media for Asian Americans right now? B+. Could there have been some high-profile films and television television series and an actors who have risen up the ladder so to speak. Chloe, Chloe Zhao just won the Golden Globe for best directing. I think she's only the second female ever to win that award and enter film won. Best picture and parasite. Won won the Oscar for Best Picture. So, so how would you No, I was just kidding. I was so excited. I brought up a great example of Chloe winning. That award

was really amazing, you know, and yet inventory and putting aside some of the foreign language controversy. In terms of the category has gotten a lot of attention. And acclaim in the fact that people are saying, I think, the fact that there is this, you know, conversation and argument like, wait why is this in this category versus another? That to me. That's a sign of progress. So it's to me extremely encouraging. It's very I feel like it's very recent just in the last five years,

it feels like there's been I just a breakthrough in a way of like maybe this isn't just the cycle of every 10 years, there's an Asian thing. And then we're like 10 years go by thick. What happened to the Asian? Think maybe it feels like for a number of reasons. There's a real momentum and permanence to this but it'll take work right to to sustain it. I don't think there is a inertia or structural, you know, forces, that'll keep it going by itself, it's going to take, you know, Asian American Writers and storytellers and directors and

filmmakers to continue to internal is to continue to push that. Forward but yeah, I think that's what's really, you know, is not contradictory. It's things can be going forward at the same time that we can be experiencing. You know, this kind of huge surge of anti-asian sentiment at the same time. You know, we have on the one hand Asian Americans winning major Awards. And on the other hand, we have asian-americans, being victimized, it's it's all happening at the same time, I guess.

Will your book came out on the beginning of last year in January 2020 against the backdrop of covid and I think we all buy now have heard or seen videos of Asian people in this country and even around the world getting attacked and as I was thinking about this conversation with you, I was thinking about the characters in your book and how they were specifically written to Kimberly be generic because that's how the media portrays them. And I was even thinking about

so many is that the people who've been attacked recently and how there been reports of over 3,000 attacks on Asian people? But we know, so few of their names, they continue to be sort of identity list. And do you think that's a Still is the way Asians are, are just perceived in this country is somewhat without identity. Yeah. I mean I think it's a really important question and I think so I think the answer is December Gris. Yes. I think as we talked to her a little bit before you know there's actually characters in the book named old Asian woman in old Asian man.

And this for a reason, you know, I think that at least for me there's always been this sense of If there's a line dividing like other you know, old Asian people seem to be pretty far on the other side. You know, in this country they just aren't whether it's a matter of appearance or language or demeanor but I don't think it's any of those things. I feel like it's driven by a deep-rooted perception, you know, of these are foreigners. This is a foreign

face. This is a foreign body and And it's so it's so it is really unsettling and yet not totally shocking to see how this is, you know, how they are these elderly Asian. People are are the ones being served victimized in the greatest number. I think it goes to a lack of I don't know if it's empathy or just an inability to see them as fully human in the same way that other people are. I mean it it's yeah, it's horrifying it, it's hard to even talk about

with that just sort of like how do you wrap your head around some of the things we're seeing and hearing about Yeah, I mean I I I haven't hadn't really even thought about it much until I started thinking about the conversation. I was going to have with you that I've even talked about these people publicly and referred to them as your grandfather or the year old grandmother and families. But somehow we all collectively have been complicit in, keeping them invisible and and that makes me really sad and I want to think about everything that's going

on while it's shocking and devastating Asians have been scapegoated throughout this country's history from from from the moment. He arrived in the 80s but we just aren't introduced to Asian American history in in our in our history textbooks. When were you, when were you introduced to Asian American history? Yeah. It's, you know, a little bit by my parent's, you know, it in terms of family, history and personal history and then a little bit in college through courses and through student groups in. And I think that's when I first,

you know, was introduced to this concept of the Perpetual Foreigner and I love the idea that one it was surprising to me, to, to realize, how early, you know, Asians have been coming to the United States. and, And that should put everything at a totally different perspective. It's one thing when you think, oh, Yeah, yeah, it was 60 something years. It was 67 years from 1880 to 1943. We're literally, you know, except for a tiny quota Chinese were barred from entering the United

States and in within that there were it was basically expanded. I think in 1924 to basically include any agents, it was that they were put in a category of aliens in eligible. For citizenship, that was sort of the illegal category and then by the federal government and then a bunch of States modeled their laws off of that language. Restricting aliens in eligible for citizenship For certain rights like owning land owning businesses, which is at this old Summit, kind of circular logic. I like all your,

You're an Alien. Therefore, you don't have the right, you know, it's from the beginning. They were certain in backing up a little bit. There's this timeline of, you know, Chinese were coming to to kneel for the gold rush in the early eighteen-hundreds. His earliest 1830s by the 1850s there are like, you know, riots those are the Rock Springs Massacre where dozens of of Chinese were killed. Because there were white workers, who are angry that the Chinese are willing to work for less money and their employers are willing to pay them less

money. And so by the 1850s, there was a ready, this kind of Anti-asian sentiment and and so then as you, you know, pointed out by 1882, there's this long exclusionary. Where they're just not where Asians are not allowed to become Americans, literally, right? And so we have this like they came, they tried to be part of this country, they were locked out. And then only fairly recently in 65 after do the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act that serve reopen things in a way. And

until you start seeing these waves of immigration. In the timeline with this big hole in the middle is is weird because it is essentially Kind of in a way codified, the alienness of Asians, you know, it says you can come when we need you to and then when we want to kick you out we're going to kick you out and I think we're still, you know, for me, still living and kind of the repercussions of that mentality. Yeah, I think we have throughout history. Again Asians have been have been scapegoated and and and suffered severe discrimination suffered from severe

discrimination. I mean, look at the biggest lynching in American history happened in Los Angeles is Chinatown in the eighteen hundreds and then it will you look at World War II and the internment of 120000 people Japanese descent. So many of whom were american-born. It's just it. It's and then you have the model minority stereotype of Agents, right? It's it's like a pandemic, right? Or there is is is a geo-political conflict. We go back to scapegoating them and and, and treating them

as perpetual. Can I just you know, someone who was born here? I just I I I I don't know that I will ever see a time when I will feel entirely American and that I will in some, in some people's eyes, never be seen as fully American you ever feel that way I do. Yeah, I absolutely do and I think That is it's one thing for me to Grapple with that. You know, I lived in so many ways, very privileged existence and I but when I think about, you know how it is.

You know, will affect people that are more vulnerable. You can all make lie or physically it really, you know, saddens me in it and it just makes me think of how can we ever change it? If it hasn't changed in your close to two hundred years? Will it ever change? I mean I want to be more helpful than that. I think a lot of the things that forced these things to the surface. We're actually was actually my kids getting older cuz I serve realized as they were coming home from school. You know, when there for 5 years old, they were asking questions, like, what are we

thinking? They're American, what else would they be? And so things that I questions that I sort of thought I had answered for myself. I hadn't really answered. I just heard of Come to some kind of uneasy peace with like, okay? Well that's how it's going to be, you know, like I get it, I know how to navigate, I know how to sort of try to be invisible. You know, try to get by and do well without making waves or thinking too hard about what people think about me. You know just

I just found it a solution for for navigating kind of the trickier questions of my identity but as a parent is being forced to articulate. Some of those things all over again. And for someone else for someone that I don't want to have, you know that. I hope that my kids will, you know, and everyone's kids will have A very different environment so you brought up the mine or model minority myth. I think it's really important you know how to address. You know. The reality is that I think I was reading.

There's a 2018 Pew, research report, that showed that Asian Americans were that had the highest level of poverty in New York City as it has a percentage of the group, you know, to just even when you know that there's There are plenty of occasions that are not doing well. It sort of shocking. And I think as a group overall nationally, there's the highest income inequality for agents, you know, within the category it's this idea that Asians are just kind of homogeneous, you know, monolithic

successful group is not only wrong, it's you, no damaging and it's still a category that we can talk about because sadly, that's how we're perceived as a group, you know? I mean, if there's one thing that's unifying these attacks is that oh, that's an Asian. Whatever signals Asian, I'm going to attack that person and those the victims have come from all different backgrounds, you know? But for whatever reason they're at their love together as Asians. Yeah, I mean, I think it's interesting to hear you

talk about how your first like real exposure to Asian history, didn't happen, until College similar story for me. In fact, my mom is from Taiwan, but I didn't with growing up. I didn't even know what being Taiwan Taiwanese even meant. I was just, I was just the Chinese kid who was embarrassed of being Chinese, because I was so different from everyone else. Do you think, Charles bed, introducing Asian American history, two kids, while they're in school? Do you think do you think that that will generate empathy? Do you think that, that will give

give us a better? Understanding of the struggles in the end, the Discrimination, that agent felt throughout this country's history. Yeah, I think that's a great idea. And I don't know if there's a specific, you know? I mean, I imagine there are efforts to increase that in curricula. But to be honest I'm sort of embarrassed that I had never had specifically thought about that, you know, I just why not? Why not at the one at the middle school. One out of the unit on Asian Americans

are part of the history of the United States. Here are some things that Asian Americans have done. I think that would be hugely important. I mean, Yeah, I know you got my head spinning. How does it feel for you? Charles to is so much about identity and, and trying to figure out what your identity even is. So, for you, having written a book like this, I am sure that you are constantly about about your own identity. What is that? What is it feel like for you, as someone who has been somewhat risk-averse?

But fearful throughout his life about taking risks, specially in this climate, when historically, there really haven't been People or project or shows for you to look up to an emulate, your kind of that person. Now for people What's a scary side? Yeah it it feels on one level up, you know, to be honest scary to think that you know to have actually entered the conversation. You know that that was the whole goal is to write a book that would start conversations or get people thinking you're seeing

things in a different way and To actually have done it like oh maybe I didn't want that. I liked it better when I can just quietly scribble by myself and of course at the end of the as if I wrote the book to have a literal message, right? And they wrote it because it's fiction and I story that I wanted to tell because it helped you know me I'm telling it and working out these questions for myself, here I am in my mid-forties. Still kind of asking myself the same questions. I was asking

Get them to 20 years ago or more and, but, of course, now I've got all these other roles, right? As a husband and a dad and a son, you know, I am a member of the community and also as a writer I mean, I think it's really exciting to think of being able to potentially tell a story, you know, with a broader in a TV or film platform that reaches even more people. Yeah, I don't know. I think to me, As much as I focused on, you know, or and rightfully so focused on being Asian American or taiwanese-american. That's

also only one part of my identity, you know? It's, it's not like I walk around all day, just going Asian, Asian Aiden at you not like about being an Asian. Mostly not in a mostly, it's like a person and then an American, you know. So I really Yeah, like I think so many people trying to figure out how to navigate all of that, and then it gets so much more complicated in in, in this environment, we're in right now. So, yeah, I think I just rambled and I didn't actually

I think that's really moving because it's true. I feel like right now because there is so much attention on these attacks and end the anti-asian xenophobia that is just has become so pervasive around the world. I think so many of us are finding that we are constantly having to speak out on it and it's exhausting. But yet, we have to, but we have to do this. And we have to condemn hatred. We have, we have to almost Proclaim our American, that's which is getting tiring, too. Because at one point, Can we stop trying to prove that we're American, right?

Absolutely, I think I I I saw you. I want to say, almost a year ago. Right. It was it it's confuses me because I am pretty sure it was in March and I feel like that's really when everything started. But you were on. I think you were just on the view is that, right? And you are already speaking out about it. Yeah, and you were really early and right on about Sir what was going to happen. I don't think you were, it was framed as predictions but it's weird to watch it now. Almost a year later and realize all this was not, you know, nothing

was being overblown. This is I mean if anything it's not serve exploded more than I think, I figured it's worse than I would have thought honestly in terms of the anti-asian sentiment. So but when you were speaking up about it, it it it means something. And I'm so glad you did that. And of course this is the moment when people are cutting grass outside my window. I hope it's not too noisy. It's okay. But what do you think of this movement Charles cuz it there this really has been a moment of inflection for a first. So many of us and I do feel like there is this

movement that has just been galvanized around all of these issues. Really, you know, these these issues of identity speaking out against the Heat and the racism, you know growing up feeling kind of conflicted about your identity. What do you think about what you're seeing now? And the the kind of evolution of this really you vocal and Powerful Asian lead movement? Yeah. It's it's inspiring to know and I think it's it feels a little daunting to be honest. I think a lot of that sort of same self-doubt about.

You know, and I don't, I don't criticize anyone who has an ambivalence about it. I totally understand if there are people who are afraid to say something or two, or maybe it wondering, was it really my place? Is this really I don't suffer from that personally? Or, you know, aren't we sort of privilege depending on who's talking or, or even, there are bigger problems going on right now. So many people are hurting, you know, economically, you know, the struggle for black Americans. You know, do we really want to

be trying to chime in at a time? That might feel all of that. It, you know, it's sort of, I get if somebody's having ambivalence at the same time, I don't think it has to be One, it doesn't have to be zero, some right. I think those struggles are tied together and I think you know, the solution if there are solutions will come from the community building on a local level that you know it's like what can we do? What can I do you know even living where I live to to be a better? Neighbour be a better citizen of this place

on end in so it's really exciting to see people like for instance in Oakland Chinatown working together multiracial coalitions working together just to to protect people or to increase awareness. I mean that's It's not a silver lining because of course, the attacks are horrible and the harassment is horrible. But if it is a necessary ingredient to to progress than, you know, you can lead to, you know, I think people really Starting to have conversations that are

difficult, but necessary. Charles before we go I just wanted to know if you can give us a sense of the things that you're working on like what can we what can we look forward to from you? I, I don't know, I think I'll continue to write. I've, as I mentioned, you're lucky enough to be working with Hulu on potential TV adaptation of the book, which is its own kind of challenge. But I do think, you know, this is a challenge that I really am. Just feel really

lucky to have, you know, it's everything that we you and I have been talking about, right. How do you tell stories that humanize perspectives, that? Don't normally get that treatment boy is getting really loud. If? You know that that's that's really exciting. And, you know, I'm working on a couple of other projects that are in other various stages of development for film and I hope, you know, I hope to write another book someday. This one took almost seven years. So

hopefully, the next one won't take that long. And yeah, I just really enjoyed being in conversation with with you and I am so grateful that you for all the work you've done and you know, you're reporting and your advocacy, it's just really a priest and a privilege to his talk to you. Thank you, Charles and look, I I I am so proud that you are out there representing for us and and and telling our stories, I can tell you, how many people I've talked to who have in the Asian Community outside of the Asian Community, who have been so moved by your work. And

so many of us agents just like really, really related to that that feeling of invisibility that is, so desperately felt throughout the the pages of this book. So thank you, Charles, we can't wait to see what you have coming up and it's been a real pleasure. Thanks.

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Charles Yu
Lisa Ling