GO: A Coming of Age Novel
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GO: A Coming Age Novel
Northeast Middle School, Bethlehem
Sugihara, a high school senior with Korean heritage, meets a Japanese girl, Sakurai, at his friend’s birthday party. He is attracted to Sakurai, and they become closer by sharing their interests. While Sugihara is experiencing prejudice, bullying, family hardship, and a tragedy, he and his father develop a deeper relationship in various ways. One day, Sugihara reveals his ethnic identity to Sakurai. How do Sugihara and Sakurai move forward from there? How does Sugihara figure out where to GO?
Kaneshiro accurately depicts the lives of people with Korean heritage in Japan. He realistically tells those Korean’s hardships through Sugihara and his family’s experiences of being bullied, his aggressive response to bullies, and being discriminated. The readers could feel the pain they experience at school, work, marriage, and housing. Kaneshiro also displays Sugihara's struggles in discovering self, developing his identity with his ethnic minority status, building relationships with both male and female friends, and figuring out his future. The title of the novel, “GO” is a word, that his friend of the upper class and his father give to Sugihara. A reader may find a Sugihara’s sense of hope in his future while he goes through a tragedy and search for love as a young man. I would recommend Go to the high school students with some cautions. Specific scenes between Sugihara and Sakurai, his girlfriend, are overtly sexually descriptive to the young readers, and there are scenes with severe physical aggression.
A classroom teacher would be able to use this story to initiate discussion with the students about: 1) what their experiences of bully, bullied and/or discrimination, and what possible solutions are (are there any ways without physical aggravation?); 2) how their ethnic identity affects their daily lives; and 3) how their ethnic (or gender) identity play a role in determining their future.