The Color of the Sky Is the Shape of the Heart is a story about a student of Korean descent who can’t find a place of her own. She doesn’t feel quite at home in Japan, where she was born and raised; neither can she be at ease at the Korean school, where she’s considered not Korean “enough”. From the problems of Japanese society, she quickly falls into the politics of the Korean diaspora – her new school nurtures a relationship with North Korea so in each class – although the DPRK is not mentioned – her moves are watched by portraits of the Kim family.
Her everyday includes bullying and feeling lonely but when she finally settles at the new Korean school, something that will shake her idea of safety and identity is about to happen. The day North Korea fires missiles over Japan, nobody tells her not to walk the city wearing the traditional Korean clothing and so she was assaulted. She decides against telling anybody – neither her mom, whose father traveled back to North Korea, nor her friends at school. Instead of that, she is set on rebelling in the only way known to her – she throws the Kim family portraits out of the window.
Soon after, she attends two foreign schools: first in Hawaii and then in Oregon where – more than ever – she feels she doesn’t belong until a woman, who knows what it feels like, decides to take her in. Ginny, inspired by the woman’s words, recollects everything that happened and tries to accept her past and find, in this chaos, her identity with no boxes into which she was forced her entire life.
Chesil’s book is advertised as a young adult novel by the American publisher which may discourage some readers. Don’t pay this much attention since it has no influence on Japanese readers and literary critics. The author was awarded the Gunzō prize for best debut (the same prize was awarded to Haruki Marukami when he first started writing). Long story short: Yes, it’s a book written from the highschooler POV but when it comes to its literary level and the problems it tackles, it is definitely a title worth reading.