One of the most memorable characters in modern Japanese literature is not Japanese. Sugihara, the 17-year-old narrator of “Go,” by Kazuki Kaneshiro, is a third-generation Zainichi Korean in his last year of high school. Son of a North Korean ex-boxer and shrewdly adept at silencing bullies, Sugihara has “betrayed” his ancestry to enter a Japanese high school after following North Korean education at a Chongryon- (association for Zainichi in Japan) affiliated junior high.

Written with poignant authenticity — the author, Kaneshiro, is an ethnic Korean, born and raised in Saitama Prefecture — Sugihara’s melded worldview on his family, his friendships, his brush with tragedy and his love for a Japanese girl became a runaway best-seller, won the 2000 Naoki Prize and was quickly adapted into an award-winning film in 2001.

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