This article argues that Suki Kim’s The Interpreter (2003) is influenced by and, at the same time, critically revises early American hard-boiled crime fiction, the genre with which it is least likely to be associated. Although dead bodies do not pile up in the novel, the urban world in which Kim’s protagonist operates, attempting to solve the case of her parents’ murder, is as treacherous as the world portrayed in early hard-boiled detective fiction. Kim has inherited from early hard-boiled crime fiction such elements as its rugged individualism, a cynical-but-sentimental worldview, and not least, its social concerns about economic inequality and corruption among the powerful. At the same time, Kim’s novel subtly reconfigures her hard-boiled sleuth as well as adapts the genre to a contemporary racial context. In this revision, both the institutional and personal practices of racism are placed on trial. Female solidarity is also celebrated as a means to counter the violence and corruption of a racialized society. In so doing, Kim’s novel subverts both the sexism and racism of the traditional detective genre. The conclusion of this article is that the novel legitimates a female immigrant and person of color’s right to belong and challenges the white masculine hegemony that the traditional hard-boiled genre maintains.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.