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For generations, Zainichi (ethnic Korean residents of Japan) have faced a gauntlet of injustices that range from inconvenience to discrimination to harassment, a reality that the Japanese public has never fully understood or been educated on. Author Chesil’s “The Color of the Sky Is the Shape of the Heart,” which won the Oda Sakunosuke literary prize in 2016 and was recently translated into English, takes a bracing look inside the mind of a Zainichi teenager to challenge readers with a deeply traumatized consciousness and the pain and liberation that comes in processing that trauma.

“The Color of the Sky” is an explicitly Zainichi novel: It tells the story of a young girl struggling to find her place in the world after transferring from a regular Japanese junior high school to the biggest North Korean school in Tokyo, and subsequently getting kicked out and shipped off to rural Oregon to live with a host mother.

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