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Chesil Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Color of the Sky Is the Shape of the Heart (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Chesil is a third-generation Korean born in Japan. She went to film school in order to study acting until found a new passion for writing.

Chesil decided to mark the end of her twenties by penning a novel that was inspired by events during her childhood. This novel became her debut novel, called “The Color of the Sky is the Shape of the Heart”.

In 2016, she got the Gunzo New Writer’s Prize and was nominated for the Akutagawa Prize. In 2017, she won the Oda Sakunosuke Prize and the Ministry of Education’s Fine Art Award for a Debut Work. “The Color of the Sky is the Shape of the Heart” was a Kirkus Reviews Anticipated YA Book of 2022 and a Ms. Magazine Most Anticipated Book of 2022. The novel won the Freeman Book Awards for Children’s and Young Adult’s Literature.

“The Color of the Sky is the Shape of the Heart” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2022. A Zainichi Korean teenager comes of age in Japan in this groundbreaking debut novel about diaspora and prejudice.

In the year 2003, Ginny Park, seventeen years old, will soon get expelled from high school, again. High school is a place that Ginny describes as being a cruel place, which is also how she describes the world at large. At this current school, she has one friend, a deaf girl named Maggie, and there are descriptions of a sensitive invisible boy. She also provides poignant observations about people’s shoes (her own, which are the most worthless) which echo her earlier life and experiences. Stephanie, the picture book author that took Ginny into her Oregon hometown after she got kicked out of school in Hawaii, is not upset, but just wants to know why.

However Ginny’s always been in-between. But she cannot bring herself to open up to anybody about her past, or what it was that prompted her to flee from her native Japan. And then, Ginny suddenly finds this mysterious scrawl among Stephanie’s storybook drawings and scraps of paper which changes everything for her in an instant. The sky will soon fall, where do you go?

Ginny heads out on the road, searching for an answer, with just her journal as her confidante. In brutally honest and witty vignettes, and interspersed with old letters from her expatriated family in North Korea, she recounts her adolescence growing up in Zainichi, as an ethnic Korean born in Japan, and the incident which forced her to leave years prior. Inspired by her own childhood, Chesil creates this portrait of a girl that has been fighting all alone against barriers of nationality, prejudice, and injustice all of her life, all as she searches for a place of her own to belong.

Chesil delivers a debut that is a literary triumph which is both outstanding storytelling and searing societal commentary. This heartfelt book is short and feels a bit understated at times, however it also speaks volumes in its artful restraint and its ability to evoke empathy in the reader. Her compact chapters help set a brisk pace, which are punctuated by family letters from North Korea and a scene in the format of a play which flesh out a collective history and entrenched prejudice against Koreans in Japan.

Each of the chapters feels incomplete and fragmented, with sparks of feelings, thoughts, and even events are left unexplored. But this translation by Takami Neda’s vibrantly captures the uncertainty and instability of a teenager’s mind while also allowing Chesil’s poetic language to shine through. Most novels are born from this illusory sense of security that a monoethnic and monolingual Japan exists. However this novel is fraught with this tension which only those that live with the threat of violence could possibly know.

Fans of the book loved the evocativeness of this prose, how it bristles with righteous anger and resonated with lyricism in turns. Readers found this to be a thought provoking read, and provides an inquisitive and sensitive conversation about what it means to be ‘other’. There’s this feeling that Chesil was personally invested in Ginny’s story and it mattered to her that Ginny could find a bit of peace with her past.

This layered and complex story reaches a cathartic conclusion once Ginny has resolved to catch the proverbial sky while it falls, thereby forgiving herself and claiming her agency. Even though this story is just over 150 pages, it still packs a lot of history, emotion, and personal growth within its pages. It was a literary hit in Japan when it was first released, this thoughtful and beautiful novel explores the Zainichi Korean experience through a teen girl that seems surrounded by secrets.

Chesil’s sparse prose, vivid descriptions, fragmented voices all come together in order to carry the story about one young woman getting caught between cultures. Ginny vibrates with sorrow, anger, rebellion, and need. The need to be heard, seen, and to figure a way to be just in an unjust world. She is an exceptionally complex character, one that is both reserved and quiet yet also brimming with such passionate determination to combat injustice. This is quite the challenging read well worth taking on and pondering before reading again.

Ginny doesn’t come to any sort of explicit terms with her identity, she still grows immensely over the course of the novel, learning how to better ask the tough questions instead of grasping for answers. And even though her trauma still looms large over her life and keeps her from speaking directly about any of it, she at least makes the choice to remain at her American school and catch the sky should it fall.

Even though the novel ends in an unexpectedly positive way, it comes out of nowhere, but can be accepted as the whims of a teen and makes Chesil’s underlying message no less valuable. This novel is living proof of the importance of literature. It can open up the mind of readers to the lives of others, and can provide the silenced the necessary courage they need to speak up.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Chesil

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