I’ve enjoyed Japanese food for decades. I adore Kurosawa and Miyazaki and consider Ringu to be one of my all-time favorite horror movies. That said, I know nothing about Japan. To me, it’s a distant, wondrous place filled with smart, hard-working people who like eating raw fish, smoking, and frequenting public baths.
Reading Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro was a revelation to me, cutting through the myth of an orderly society to reveal deep-seated racism not unlike what we find in this country. Specifically, it’s bigotry against people who are Zainichi, people of Korean descent who are living in Japan but treated differently than other Japanese citizens. As told through the eyes of a boy named Sugihara, this world is brutal and unforgiving. Every day is a fight for survival. And then, he meets the girl—Sakurai.
Some academic is probably going to roast me for saying this, but here goes. For me, Sugihara is Holden Caufield—only much more interesting. He’s violent and tortured, but only because he’s been bullied all his life. When he meets Sakurai, he discovers in himself a capacity for love. And she learns that creating a tolerant society can begin with one person. Go is a beautiful coming-of-age story that readers of great literary fiction shouldn’t miss.
You can find this review at Goodreads.
For two teens, falling in love is going to make a world of difference in this beautifully translated, bold, and endearing novel about love, loss, and the pain of racial discrimination.
As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.
One night, after being hit by personal tragedy, Sugihara reveals to Sakurai that he is not Japanese—as his name might indicate.
Torn between a chance at self-discovery that he’s ready to seize and the prejudices of others that he can’t control, Sugihara must decide who he wants to be and where he wants to go next. Will Sakurai be able to confront her own bias and accompany him on his journey?
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