GO by Kazuki Kaneshiro, translated by Takami Nieda [in Booklist]
Japan and Korea’s centuries-long, combative history has long made Koreans in Japan second-class citizens. Kaneshiro, who is Korean Japanese, channels his own experiences into his teenage protagonist, Sugihara, a Japan-born-and-raised ethnic Korean. Sugihara decides to transfer into a Japanese high school after attending only Korean schools. Three years later, he’s still plagued with violent rejection, and his only Japanese friend is another pariah, a yakuza’s son. And then he meets a girl, and the deeper their love, the harder it becomes to reveal his secret.
First published in Japan in 2000 and awarded the Naoki Prize, GO also found substantial celluloid success in 2001. The title is a homophone in Japanese for language, an honorific prefix, the number five, the strategic game, and more; these several meanings constitute a pointed reminder of the complexity of people, relationships, and identity.
Supported by a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, Takami Nieda provides gratifying anglophone access to Kaneshiro’s searing ruminations – heightened by Malcolm X and Bruce Lee, softened by Miles Davis and Brahms – on history, xenophobia, and, of course, love.
YA/Mature Readers: Populated by high-school students of various backgrounds, GO’s coming-of-age trials and tribulations will resonate with mature teens.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2000 (Japan), 2018 (United States)