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Kazuki Kaneshiro, trans. from the Japanese by Takami Nieda. AmazonCrossing, $19.95 (172p) ISBN 978-1-5039-3737-6

Originally published in Japan in 2000, Kaneshiro’s intense coming-of-age story follows high school student Sugihara, who is “Zainichi,” a pejorative term for someone of Korean heritage raised in Japan. Sugihara is trained by his father, a former nationally ranked boxer, and regularly fights off bullies: “I had a 23-0 record and was known throughout the school as the reigning badass.” Violence permeates the novel: in addition to school fights, Sugihara’s father “nearly beat me to death three times,” his friend Jeong-il dies in a senseless stabbing, and the enigmatic girl he falls in love with first desires him when she sees him drop-kick the players on an opposing basketball team. Kaneshiro integrates themes of ethnic heritage, prejudice, identity, and belonging into Sugihara’s relationships with his parents, friends, and girlfriend (from whom he withholds his given name, Lee, for fear of losing her). The witty, sarcastic narrative voice conveys great poignancy, as when Sugihara confesses his true ethnicity and hears: “Silence. Silence. Silence. Silence.” A memorable, conflicted, defiant protagonist and an idiosyncratic love story drive this thought-provoking page-turner. (Mar.)