Among the winners of the 2003 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, sponsored by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights, was The Interpreter: A Novel, by Suki Kim (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2003). This captivating and unsettling novel centers on a young Korean American interpreter for the New York City municipal court system. Readers learn much about the immigrant experience, and the role that the Immigration and Naturalization Service plays. Kim’s first novel provides mystery, intrigue, self-deprecating drama, dysfunctional family dynamics, cross-racial relations and more in her exploration of the intricacies of cultural and linguistic translation. As one reviewer noted, “Suki Kim fractures the image of the happy Asian immigrant and reassembles it shard by compelling shard.”
Interestingly, there are two other novels with the same title. One by Suzanne Glass, whose hero is a simultaneous interpreter (although, despite the book’s title, the reviews at amazon.com stubbornly refer to it as “translator,” at one time even as “simultaneous translator”). The other by William S. Hodges, and I have not been able to get my hands on it to find out what it is about.