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No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life “no-no boys.” Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hosti No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life “no-no boys.” Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle. As Ozeki writes, Ichiro’s “obsessive, tormented” voice subverts Japanese postwar “model-minority” stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man’s “threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world.”


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No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life “no-no boys.” Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hosti No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life “no-no boys.” Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle. As Ozeki writes, Ichiro’s “obsessive, tormented” voice subverts Japanese postwar “model-minority” stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man’s “threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world.”

30 review for No-No Boy (Classics of Asian American Literature)

  1. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    No-No Boy was searingly wrong for its time: in 1956 John Okada wrote a novel about a Japanese American man who went to prison instead of fighting for a country that had sent his family to an internment camp. It was a time when white readers weren't ready to read the truth, and when Japanese-Americans were trying to move on. This novel was just reprinted last year by U Washington Press, with a foreword by Ruth Ozeki--it's worth getting a copy of the new edition just to read her essay about Okada No-No Boy was searingly wrong for its time: in 1956 John Okada wrote a novel about a Japanese American man who went to prison instead of fighting for a country that had sent his family to an internment camp. It was a time when white readers weren't ready to read the truth, and when Japanese-Americans were trying to move on. This novel was just reprinted last year by U Washington Press, with a foreword by Ruth Ozeki--it's worth getting a copy of the new edition just to read her essay about Okada and about the immediate post-WWII realities of Japanese American life. As Ozeki writes in her foreword, Ichiro's "obsessive, tormented" voice subverts Japanese postwar "model-minority" stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man's "threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world." I was expecting something polemical and discovered something far more subtle. The characters are complicated in interesting ways. I expected Ichiro, the titular No No Boy, to be righteous, a conscientious objector, to have a strong and (from my vantage point of 2015) completely defensible reason for refusing to swear loyalty to the United States or to enlist in the US armed forces when at the same time his people were being shipped off to internment camps. Not at all. The novel is simply told, but never simple. Instead, the protagonist, Ichiro, is full of shame and self-doubt about his decision to refuse to swear a loyalty oath to the U.S. He wishes he could change his mind and take back the last two years, not because he spent them in prison, but because now he doesn't know who he is any longer. He envies friends who have come home wounded from the war; he even envies the war dead, even though their sacrifices have not given their families any more acceptance, and have not shielded them from race hatred at home. Along with Ichiro, Okada introduces a host of other characters who each reflect a reasonable response to the prejudice and hardships faced by Japanese Americans in the 50's. One of my many favorites is Ichiro's mother, an unabashed Japanese nationalist, a woman who thinks any news about Japanese defeat must be U.S. war propaganda, and who rejects even the letters from her own family members in Japan as false. Okada's writing has a hard-boiled feel that reminded me of From Here to Eternity by James Jones, which was published just a few years prior to No No Boy. The themes of the novel anticipate the turmoil of the Viet Nam war to follow, when men of a certain age found themselves divided into those who fought, and those who fought the draft. The novel should be read more widely not only as literature but as a fictional testament to the era in which it was written.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    A little-known fact about American history: at the time of World War II, the U.S. War Department required men of Japanese descent to answer two “loyalty” questions: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States? Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of American and faithfully defend it?” Most answered “yes”; those who answered “no” were referred to as No-No Boys. Their reasons were complex; some had family living in Japan, others didn’t understand why the A little-known fact about American history: at the time of World War II, the U.S. War Department required men of Japanese descent to answer two “loyalty” questions: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States? Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of American and faithfully defend it?” Most answered “yes”; those who answered “no” were referred to as No-No Boys. Their reasons were complex; some had family living in Japan, others didn’t understand why they should give their lives to a country who had stripped them of all rights of citizenship (despite being born in America). And that preamble brings us to this novel, written in J957 by John Okada (the Seattle-born author himself fought for America in the war). At the opening of the book, his No-No Boy, a disgraced Ichiro Yamada, has spent two years in prison at a time when war fever was at a peak pitch. He is universally despised by Americans (including those of Japanese descent) and his family – a half-crazy mother who believes Japan has won the war, a passive father, and a younger brother who despises him – makes him feel like a stranger in a strange land. In one particularly strong passage, Ichiro says “It is not enough to be only half an American and know that it is an empty half. I am not your son and I am not Japanese and I am not American.” Who is Ichiro Yamada then, and where does he belong? That is the question at the crux of this novel. Riddled by shame, seething with anger, coping with mixed feelings about the only country he has known – its horrific treatment of those of Japanese descent combined with its its generosity of heart – Ichiro’s radicalized persona is a stand-in for second-generation Japanese men who were forced to confront this darkness.” Upon meeting one kind man, Ichiro ponders, “What words would transmit the bigness of his feelings to match the bigness of the heart of this American who in the manner of his living, was continually nursing and worrying the infant America into the greatness of its inheritance?” With his secondary characters—Ichiro’s brother, his draft resister pals, and those who took a different path (notably Kenji who is slowly dying of his wounds and Ralph, who reenlisted), John Okada provides a 360-degree look at the men of those times. As a literary book, it can be a bit rough around the edges; it’s not perfect. But it is still compelling and unique and courageous. Ruth Ozeki, herself a wonderful writer, pens a superb foreword that captures the book’s meaning for a whole new generation of writers of Japanese descent. The questions this book raises are timeless and universal.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    While John Okada’s novel could be read for its historical perspective on the internment of Japanese-Americans and their experiences post-WWII, it was not written as a historical novel. No-No Boy was published just over a decade after the end of the war and is a vibrant, fresh exploration of the complex issues of identity (ethnic/cultural/racial/national). With his cast of characters Okada is able to get at the reality and illusion of identity. Not only does he portray Ichiro’s struggle, but each While John Okada’s novel could be read for its historical perspective on the internment of Japanese-Americans and their experiences post-WWII, it was not written as a historical novel. No-No Boy was published just over a decade after the end of the war and is a vibrant, fresh exploration of the complex issues of identity (ethnic/cultural/racial/national). With his cast of characters Okada is able to get at the reality and illusion of identity. Not only does he portray Ichiro’s struggle, but each character is also caught in his own struggle for identity, so that he become a symbol of himself. This is the ultimate paradox of the “identity crisis”. No-No Boy was well ahead of its time and remains so. I read it looking for insight into the experience of others who find themselves outside the dominant social order. Okada is unflinching and accurate in his portrayal of the intersection of identity. The book may have been written more than half a century ago, but not very much has changed. The players might be different but its still the same game www.jasonfmcdaniel.com

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rinda Rinda

    No-no boys refer to the Japanese American men and Japanese Nationals who answered "no" to two specific questions on a survey conducted by the US government while they were interned in camps during WWII. 1. Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered? 2. Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of alleg No-no boys refer to the Japanese American men and Japanese Nationals who answered "no" to two specific questions on a survey conducted by the US government while they were interned in camps during WWII. 1. Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered? 2. Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization? It's important to understand the context surrounding the two questions from the questionnaire. The Japanese immigrants and Japanese born American children on the West Coast were forced to live in internment camps on the sole basis of our nation's outright racism toward the Japanese after the bombing on Pearl Harbor. When our military instituted the draft and additional troops were in demand, our government decided that the formerly untrustworthy Japanese Americans men could be asked to serve for their nation. Those interned Japanese Americans who answered NO to question #1 did so because of the blatant disrespect and humiliation they and their families received with FDR's Executive Order 9066. Also, many answered no to the first question because they thought answering yes was the same agreeing to the draft. The second question posed even more contempt and confusion from the camps. By agreeing to swear allegiance to the US, the government was basically implying that the Japanese Americans were formerly swearing allegiance to Japan. Notwithstanding the fact that most of these second-generation Japanese Americans had never even set foot in Japan. In addition, in 1946, Asians immigrants were not permitted to apply for citizenship or obtain citizenship b/c of our country's discriminatory policies. To ask the Isseis (first generation Japanese immigrants) to foreswear allegiance to Japan meant that they would become "men without a country". Those who answered no to both questions were later known as "no-no boys". Because they answered NO to both questions, they were either sent to higher security internment camps or were imprisoned in jail with criminals. And after the war, many of them were looked down upon and in some cases, even resented within their own Japanese American community. John Okada gives a human voice to the untold story of one of these no-no boys. Considering this is one of the very first Asian American novels ever to be published, it should also be considered an important mildstone in contemporary American literature.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    “It’s because we’re American and because we’re Japanese and sometimes the two don’t mix. It’s all right to be German and American or Italian and American or Russian and American but, as things turned out, it wasn’t all right to be Japanese and American. You had to be one or the other.” “I meant only to say that one must live in the real world. One must live naturally, not so? It is not always a happy life but, sad or happy, it can be a good life. It is like the seasons. It cannot always be fall.” “It’s because we’re American and because we’re Japanese and sometimes the two don’t mix. It’s all right to be German and American or Italian and American or Russian and American but, as things turned out, it wasn’t all right to be Japanese and American. You had to be one or the other.” “I meant only to say that one must live in the real world. One must live naturally, not so? It is not always a happy life but, sad or happy, it can be a good life. It is like the seasons. It cannot always be fall.” Question 27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered? Question 28: Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization? -From a 1943 “loyalty questionnaire” sent to incarcerated Japanese-Americans eligible for military service. The protagonist of John Okada’s novel, Ichiro Yamada, is a No-No boy. One earned this moniker by answering no to both of the aforementioned questions and more often than not, being sent from an internment camp to a federal prison. From one prison to another. In a sense though, that is what this novel is about. Not about the literal and temporal prison of bars and captivity, but the mental and spiritual prison one is never released from. When Ichiro is released after two years in prison, he returns home to Seattle to find a world that has no use for him. His mother lives in denial, believing that Japan has actually won the war and is making preparations for when the Emperor comes to rescue her. She is sadly, not alone among her friends. His father, a weak and amiable man, begins drinking to escape the pain that his wife is living through. He knows Japan has lost the war but fears for the mental consequences of pushing this on his wife. He is in Ichiro’s view: "Neither husband nor father nor Japanese nor American but a diluted mixture of all” Even Ichiro’s friends, Ken who lost a leg in the war, Emi whose husband refuses to come back to America out of guilt, and Freddie who like Ichiro is also a No-No boy and is hell bent on self destruction, are not immune from the aftermath of decisions made during the war. Okada paints a painful picture of conflicted and tortured identity which slowly rips Ichiro apart with each new interaction. If one was born in America, and chose to fought for America, does that make you American? For some Japanese-Americans who made this choice, the realization that for many white Americans it changes nothing, is too much to bear and therefore they spit (quite literally in some cases) on the No-No boys as a bid for acceptance to a society where they will always be a “Jap”. That they are hated by older Japanese who loathe them for fighting for “them” against “us” is yet another layer of torture they must navigate. Okada writes: “The young Japanese hates the not-so-young Japanese who is more Japanese than himself, and the not-so-young, in turn, hates the old Japanese who is all Japanese and, therefore, even more Japanese than he . . .” The No-No boys in this novel similarly have no real identity or community to turn to. Japanese-Americans who fought in the war loathe them. White Americans despise them even more. Their only real solace lies in other No-No boys but in their friendship, lies a mirror to the shame they carry with them. There is a pointed scene where fellow No-No boy Freddie invites Ichiro to a poker game. Finding it diffcult to believe anyone would accept him, Ichiro asks who these guys are: “What guys?” “Guys like you and me. Who else?” “Oh.” He couldn’t hide his disappointment, and Freddie noticed it with a frown. It doesn’t have to be said that these men are also No-No boys. Simply that they are “like you and me”. Non No-No boys don’t hire No-No boys. No-no boys don’t go to non No-No boy bars or restaurants. And non No-No boys don’t socialize with No-No boys. And yet for all the psychic trauma Japanese-Americans suffer in this story, it is not a story devoid of hope. Ichiro’s friend Ken who lost a leg in the war bears him no enmity. He in fact goes out of his way to show him kindness. Similarly, Ichiro encounters a white man who is sympathetic to his past and offers him a job. It is only Ichiro’s self loathing and seeming desire to punish himself that prevent him from accepting such kindness. Yes there are pockets of kindness in the world. And as someone says to Ichiro toward the end of the story, perhaps with time people will forget and things will go back to “normal”. Whatever normal once may have been. Okada, writing in 1957, seems unsure. And yet were he alive today perhaps he would concur that while the memory of the No-No boys has dimmed, their plight, and the plight of all Americans who lack an identity and a spiritual home is one that refuses to fade away.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shomeret

    I found The No-No Boy on K.P. Kollenborn's Blog after I had read her novel Eyes Behind Belligerence. Since Eyes Behind Belligerence and No-No Boy had protagonists dealing with being Japanese American during and after World War II, it seemed natural to compare them. Both Kollenborn’s Jim Yoshimura and Okada’s Ichiro Yamada are what was known as “No-No Boys”. This means that after they had been interned, they refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States, and they refused to serve in I found The No-No Boy on K.P. Kollenborn's Blog after I had read her novel Eyes Behind Belligerence. Since Eyes Behind Belligerence and No-No Boy had protagonists dealing with being Japanese American during and after World War II, it seemed natural to compare them. Both Kollenborn’s Jim Yoshimura and Okada’s Ichiro Yamada are what was known as “No-No Boys”. This means that after they had been interned, they refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States, and they refused to serve in the military during WWII. Yet these characters could not be less alike in their response to their experiences. Jim never doubted that he had made the correct decision. Ichiro was completely angst-ridden, and continually referred to his “mistake”. A reader might ask who is more typical of “No-No Boys”, but I don’t believe that characters in a novel can or should be considered representative of an entire group. If an author is successful in creating characters that resemble actual human beings, then they are unique individuals that represent no one but themselves. If some readers respond to a character as being true to their own experiences, there may still be other readers who don’t identify with the character. This is why I think that a better question for a reader to ask is why Jim Yoshimura and Ichiro Yamada had such disparate responses. This question can be answered by examining these characters’ backgrounds as they are portrayed in their respective novels. Jim and Ichiro are on opposite sides of a spectrum of behavior. I don’t think that either should be regarded as typical. They can be considered portraits of individuals in a time of a crisis ably portrayed by their authors. I did prefer the character Kenji in No-No Boy. It isn't because Kenji fought in World War II. I genuinely respect the position of No-No Boys. (view spoiler)[ If anything Kenji's decision should be described as a very tragic mistake. He did survive the war, but at tremendous cost. (hide spoiler)] Yet unlike Ichiro, Kenji accepted himself. I think that when people like themselves, they are more likable to others. For a different version of this review, see my blog at: http://www.maskedpersona.blogspot.com

  7. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    Read it for a thesis committee I'm on and grateful for the opportunity to be introduced to a one-time novelist who died much too young (47) but if one were to write one novel, this would be it. The setting is a post-WWII America most white Americans don't know about--the complex and conflicted positioning of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Okada builds a West Coast world of nightclubs, dire poverty, and urban grittiness to explore how Japanese Americans can or cannot ever be American. The Read it for a thesis committee I'm on and grateful for the opportunity to be introduced to a one-time novelist who died much too young (47) but if one were to write one novel, this would be it. The setting is a post-WWII America most white Americans don't know about--the complex and conflicted positioning of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Okada builds a West Coast world of nightclubs, dire poverty, and urban grittiness to explore how Japanese Americans can or cannot ever be American. The trauma inflicted on the different characters is immense from Ichiro the main character's who is co-erced by his mother to say no to being drafted to fight in WW2 and spends two years in prison to his friend Kenjii who has lost a leg fighting that continues to hurt to his friend Emi whose husband has been in Europe since the war ended not wanting to return. Okada, himself a war vet, nuances the differing attitudes and emotions that Ichiro's position as a no-no boy conjures up among strangers and friends. The novel's power lies in Ikiro's ability to evaluate and draw from these encounters so that he can begin to process what has happened to him as an American and why and to move beyond self-hatred and blame to some kind of forgiveness not only toward himself but toward the racist nation that put him in a double bind, a lose-lose situation. Okada writes fiercely and passionately, making his characters and settings memorable. His exploration of the tenuous relationship that many othered Americans have with the US concerning citizenship are still so relevant today in post-9/11 America.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Queralt✨

    Aight. Dang. 5/5 Ichiro Yamada, a Japanese American man, comes back home from being imprisoned for refusing to fight for the United States after he and his family were sent to internment camps on the west coast. Apparently, he was not American enough to roam the streets with the ghost of Pearl Harbour still lurking around the corners. The novel follows him as he struggles with the many challenges both in the Japanese community in the US, the post WW2 society, and his own identity. After a bit of Aight. Dang. 5/5 Ichiro Yamada, a Japanese American man, comes back home from being imprisoned for refusing to fight for the United States after he and his family were sent to internment camps on the west coast. Apparently, he was not American enough to roam the streets with the ghost of Pearl Harbour still lurking around the corners. The novel follows him as he struggles with the many challenges both in the Japanese community in the US, the post WW2 society, and his own identity. After a bit of digging online, I noticed many people mention that the term 'Asian American' predates John Okada himself. Part of me wonders how I would cope not having a name or tag that I could somewhat comfortably identify with. Lawson Fusao Inada's Introduction explains how Okada's No-No Boy was 'wrong' at the time it was published. No one read it, no one talked about it, and Okada died without knowing the relevance it now seems to have in the Asian American community. Speaking for myself, who is neither Asian nor American, but still struggles with the big idea of my identity, I found it to be a great novel in which Ichiro struggles mostly with himself, but also with how our fears turn to hate, hate turns to war, and after wars comes more hate. I do have to say this was not an engaging book for me. It is slow and I found it mentally disturbing and frustrating (as it should be, considering the topic), but this is getting 5 stars because I feel I'll be thinking about this quite a lot. Anyhow, I'd say the sentence that kinda got me the most for no reason is when Ichiro is at a bar: “Not many places a Jap can go to and feel so completely at ease. It must be nice to be white and American and to be able to feel like this no matter where one goes to, but I won't cry about that.” Ok, bye.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Zacarias

    No-No Boy by John Okada is another one of those books that make me want to shake it violently and go, "Where have you been all my life?! Why have you deprived me of this misery?" "But...But..." stammers No-No Boy. "I've been here all this time. Since 1957. It's gotten quite lonely, really." Lonely indeed. This was the only novel ever completed by John Okada, who died at the age of 47 thinking that no one, especially in the Asian American community, cared about his work. His wife burned his other No-No Boy by John Okada is another one of those books that make me want to shake it violently and go, "Where have you been all my life?! Why have you deprived me of this misery?" "But...But..." stammers No-No Boy. "I've been here all this time. Since 1957. It's gotten quite lonely, really." Lonely indeed. This was the only novel ever completed by John Okada, who died at the age of 47 thinking that no one, especially in the Asian American community, cared about his work. His wife burned his other novel in progress after the Japanese American Research Project at UCLA refused to look at his stuff. It was one of the first Japanese American novels to be published, and like the community it represented, it was mostly cast aside and ignored for years until people started picking it up and studying it for its literary value. The basic story is set in Seattle, during World War II, in which Japanese Americans were herded like cattle into concentration camps. Their US citizenships weren't enough to make them American enough to not be treated as foreign spies, but yet they were still obligated to fight for the US. That's right. Oh, you're not good enough of an American to be trusted to live free. But you're good enough to sacrifice your life or limbs for us. Basic plot premise: Ichiro, the main character, goes before the court. But out of a sense of resentment at the United States' bad treatment of his parents and also loyalty to his mother (who had very patriotic beliefs in favor of Japan), he refuses to fight. As a result, he's sent to jail for two years. When he comes back, Seattle and its Japanese American community has fragmented between veterans and no-no boys (the ones who refused to fight for a country that had rejected them first) and parents and their children. A big reason for these tensions within the Japanese American community is the differences in national and cultural loyalties. Despite their impoverished conditions, Ichiro's parents still subscribe to their old, original dream of making lots of money in the United States and then returning to Japan to live a comfortable life. Some young Japanese American veterans openly flaunt their war medals in order to assert their American loyalty, and Ichiro resents the fact that they feel that they need to assert their American-ness in order to be accepted. This question of identity is explored throughout the entire book, and in terms of plot, it can be pretty haphazard and slow because not much happens on the outside until the latter half of the book. Most of the conflict is internal, where the exploration of identity, trauma, masculinity, and patriotism occurs in depth. We have the basic set-up: a no-no boy leaves prison and comes home. There are countless gems of angry social criticism throughout this book. Sometimes it feels like an autobiography and it's actually not - Okada actually went to war but created this novel to explore what would happen if someone said no. There is an odd POV switch in the middle of the book, in which we suddenly (and conveniently) get a glimpse into Ichiro's friend Kenji's life. I appreciated this extra perspective, but it was rather asymmetrical and comes across as lazy to me since there was no prior POV switch beforehand. The biggest weakness in this novel is the fact that Ichiro/narrator is prone to going off into redundant rants that don't necessarily add anything new to what he has already said. Nonetheless, I was swept away by Ichiro's inner thoughts on what it means to be a Japanese American, and also by his anger at the ethnic division within the minority community, in which different groups turn on each other when they should be embracing each other. It's very clear that Okada has thought about these things a lot, and I truly empathize with Ichiro's turmoil and sense of alienation from everyone around him. His angst reminds me of Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye, but with more concrete social problems at hand rather than a general disgust of the pretentiousness in people. By the end, I have a much better understanding of the cultural struggles that the Japanese American community had - on a myopic level. I've read about their internment camps in history books, referred to in media and even memoirs of people who were children at the time. But this one carries with it the emotional weight of the identity crisis that the Nisei must have experienced during World War II, and their sense of disconnection between themselves, their parents, and the rest of their peers. Glamorous Book Lounge

  10. 5 out of 5

    sdw

    I read this book while doing “ground-support” for a tree-sit. That means, I was basically sitting under some trees that people were living in (to stop logging) in case they needed help from the ground. Reading this book was the first time I saw my citizenship and the privileges they come with it as unnatural. I had never really thought about them before. But here I was with folks engaging in an action that depended upon our citizenship being recognized and respected. It may very well have been a I read this book while doing “ground-support” for a tree-sit. That means, I was basically sitting under some trees that people were living in (to stop logging) in case they needed help from the ground. Reading this book was the first time I saw my citizenship and the privileges they come with it as unnatural. I had never really thought about them before. But here I was with folks engaging in an action that depended upon our citizenship being recognized and respected. It may very well have been at that moment that I committed to return to graduate school and think more about these issues, because I clearly didn’t know enough. This book was written by a WWII veteran and deals sympathetically with the story of a No-No Boy, an interned Japanese American who refused to be drafted out of the internment camps into World War II. The book engages the relationship among physical, sexual, and emotional wounds of war and racism.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    This book was slow for me and then gained momentum about 1/2 of the way through to create a powerful and surprising exploration of American identity, as it intersects with race and power. It struck me how unique the voice of the book is - it’s not written as an explainer for white America about the aftermath of internment. In fact, it deals very little with internment specifically. Instead it’s an examination of Asian American psyche and identity, with internment and the main character’s impriso This book was slow for me and then gained momentum about 1/2 of the way through to create a powerful and surprising exploration of American identity, as it intersects with race and power. It struck me how unique the voice of the book is - it’s not written as an explainer for white America about the aftermath of internment. In fact, it deals very little with internment specifically. Instead it’s an examination of Asian American psyche and identity, with internment and the main character’s imprisonment as context and substitute for many power dynamics that exist to this day.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Ironically I'm writing this review as I'm listening to Trump give a speech after tweeting about targeting Mexicans for shipment to deportation camps. This is a story that educates me about a community I knew little about. At the same time it provided a story I cared about and a writing style that puts your mind in the world created. Similar to knowing the steps of a dance to the point you don't have to think about them. It just flows. Ironically I'm writing this review as I'm listening to Trump give a speech after tweeting about targeting Mexicans for shipment to deportation camps. This is a story that educates me about a community I knew little about. At the same time it provided a story I cared about and a writing style that puts your mind in the world created. Similar to knowing the steps of a dance to the point you don't have to think about them. It just flows.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I had no idea about this piece of WWII history. Interesting, angry, sad and ahead of its time. Wish he had lived to write more, and that it hadn't taken me so long to discover this! I had no idea about this piece of WWII history. Interesting, angry, sad and ahead of its time. Wish he had lived to write more, and that it hadn't taken me so long to discover this!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Douglas Rowland

    Searing, powerful, unique and complex -- and still far too obscure. John Okada died at the age of 47 "believing that Asian America had rejected his work," and his wife inexplicably burned the only draft of his second novel. Goddamnit. Searing, powerful, unique and complex -- and still far too obscure. John Okada died at the age of 47 "believing that Asian America had rejected his work," and his wife inexplicably burned the only draft of his second novel. Goddamnit.

  15. 5 out of 5

    La La

    Absolutely brilliant. I would give it six stars if I could. The synopsis made me think the story was about Japanese internment camps, but it was about life after the camps. RTC. I read this for both Diversity Month and my A Year of Classics challenge.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    No-No Boy is a novel by John Okada. Okada is a Seattle-ite who wrote one novel and died at the age of 47. He couldn’t find publication for it in America, but it was published by Charles Tuttle in Japan. I think this must mostly have to do with the content of the novel about a young second generation Japanese American named Ichiro who refused to sign a loyalty oath and refused to join the armed forces; hence “no” twice. I think publishers were reluctant to publish it since it highlights one of Am No-No Boy is a novel by John Okada. Okada is a Seattle-ite who wrote one novel and died at the age of 47. He couldn’t find publication for it in America, but it was published by Charles Tuttle in Japan. I think this must mostly have to do with the content of the novel about a young second generation Japanese American named Ichiro who refused to sign a loyalty oath and refused to join the armed forces; hence “no” twice. I think publishers were reluctant to publish it since it highlights one of America’s more embarrassing and inhumane moments. I was surprised on how well-written it was: It was the sort of morning that non-Seattleites are always ascribing to Seattle-wet without being really wet and the whole city enveloped in a kind of dull, grayish fog. The rain was there, a finely speckled spray which one felt against the skin of one’s face and which clung to water-resistant garments like dew on a leaf. The temperature was around forty and the clammy chill of the air seeped through the outercoats and past the undergarments and sucked the warmth from the very skin. I also found his descriptions of post war Seattle and Chinatown fascinating. It was like taking a trip back in time. His characters were well-drawn represented the chagrin and bitterness, and refusal to accept Japan’s defeat that many Japanese Americans must have felt after having been put in internment camps. He was able to capture the confusion and rebellions of people brought up in American by distinctly Japanese parents-they were caught between two worlds. Okada himself served in the war giving propaganda announcements in Japanese. Apparently he had a second manuscript that was left behind when he died, but his wife tired to donate it to the Japanese American Research Project at UCLA and they refused his papers, so she burned them. This novel was republished by the University of Washington Press in 1978. It feels more authentic than another Seattle-ite’s novel about Japanese American racism, Snow Falling On Cedars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chana

    Brilliantly written, this book reminds me of Steinbeck in that it is a very complex book in deceptively simple language. It packs a punch. I had intended to pass this book on once I finished it but found that I want to keep this one, it has importance both historically and psychologically. It was written by John Okada, a Japanese American who served in the U.S. military during WWll, but his subject matter is a young Japanese man who was two years in an internment camp as a Japanese American and Brilliantly written, this book reminds me of Steinbeck in that it is a very complex book in deceptively simple language. It packs a punch. I had intended to pass this book on once I finished it but found that I want to keep this one, it has importance both historically and psychologically. It was written by John Okada, a Japanese American who served in the U.S. military during WWll, but his subject matter is a young Japanese man who was two years in an internment camp as a Japanese American and then two years in prison for declining to declare loyalty to the U.S. and refusing to serve in the U.S. military. The young Japanese men who had done this were called No-No Boys. When the book opens our No-No Boy has just returned to his home town of Seattle. He immediately encounters hatred from the Japanese who served in the military, he is scorned in his community. The person who is proud of him is his mother, the person who most strongly implanted his identity as Japanese. His parents are both Japanese, living in American for many years but never intending to stay, two boys born to them in America. The younger brother hates him for what he has done and joins the U.S. military on his 18th birthday. The mother is delusional, thinks Japan has won the war and the supposed defeat of Japan is just U.S. propaganda. Ichiro, our No-No boy, knows better but his mother will not be convinced, she has become mentally ill with cognitive dissonance. Father tries to placate everyone and drinks himself senseless. Ichiro is lost, in deep identity crisis and self-hatred, problems which play out in his actions and interactions in the story. A brutal but beautiful book, important. Highly recommended.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Childs

    At the end of WWII, Japanese American Ichiro makes his way home not from the battlefield, but from prison. He's a "No-No" boy, having refused the draft in mixed protest against his family's internment during the war. But as Ichiro faces the challenges of having turned down service in a patriotic country which mistrusts his heritage in the extreme, Ichiro questions his true motivations for saying no, as well as his place in American society. As he rambles around Seattle, he meets slowly dying sol At the end of WWII, Japanese American Ichiro makes his way home not from the battlefield, but from prison. He's a "No-No" boy, having refused the draft in mixed protest against his family's internment during the war. But as Ichiro faces the challenges of having turned down service in a patriotic country which mistrusts his heritage in the extreme, Ichiro questions his true motivations for saying no, as well as his place in American society. As he rambles around Seattle, he meets slowly dying soldiers, no-no boys like himself, and a women left behind by a man who loves war better. These people, in concert with his own shattered and mentally ill family members, help shape Ichiro's sense of self, future, and hope for America, however fragile those sensibilities may be. This book it interesting and filled with vivid characters. That said, one thing that annoyed me about the writing style employed throughout, was that Ichiro's character frequently launches into these winding run-on sentences that go on for paragraphs and are poorly if at all punctuated. I understand that its functioning as a stream of consciousness technique, and I understand that the longer the rambles, the more momentum and emotional drama the author is attempting to build. Regardless, the technique felt forced, clumsy, and whiny to me. Indeed, it soured my perception of Ichiro more than anything else in the book. Otherwise, this was an important and interesting read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jan Priddy

    I read this book in a grad class many years ago (1990 printing). It was pretty amazing, especially since I knew a man who was a No-No boy. I was shocked to read that Penguin has reissued the novel as in the public domain and ignoring its copyright. My copy is clearly marked as copyrighted by the author's wife. At the very least, Penguin was obligated to research and contact possible holder(s) of copyright. This is in the law. Andy Shiga of Shiga's Imports on University Way in Seattle was said to I read this book in a grad class many years ago (1990 printing). It was pretty amazing, especially since I knew a man who was a No-No boy. I was shocked to read that Penguin has reissued the novel as in the public domain and ignoring its copyright. My copy is clearly marked as copyrighted by the author's wife. At the very least, Penguin was obligated to research and contact possible holder(s) of copyright. This is in the law. Andy Shiga of Shiga's Imports on University Way in Seattle was said to be a No-No Boy. I worked next door in the old music department of the University Book Store. He was the determined hold-out in the UW's efforts to purchase the entire block. He was also a key player in instituting the Street Fair, which I participated ins during the first year and one other. Anyway, it is a powerful story and deserves to be read. Try to find a copy from the UW press with his wife's intro. She still runs the family business.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Preston

    The late John Okada was a man ahead of his time. In the 1950's he crisply defined the pivotal struggle of 2013. Government policy mistakenly adopted the passions of the majority during WW2 in it's treatment of Japanese Americans, and the American political process is still in need of reform. UCLA's internalized racism was responsible for the destruction of his subsequent book, and violence against the working class remains endemic in American institutions of higher education. Today, good people The late John Okada was a man ahead of his time. In the 1950's he crisply defined the pivotal struggle of 2013. Government policy mistakenly adopted the passions of the majority during WW2 in it's treatment of Japanese Americans, and the American political process is still in need of reform. UCLA's internalized racism was responsible for the destruction of his subsequent book, and violence against the working class remains endemic in American institutions of higher education. Today, good people do their best working within these Halls and this Nation, right alongside those impassioned and privileged who enjoy zero accountability. Okada san won't allow us to look away from the Good Small - just as he forces huge patterns of destruction into the light of day.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This is a good, but super short book. There are good looks at the psychology of Japanese-Americans who decided to serve in the military during WWII and the ones who refused ("no-no" people), as well as the people who are looking at them (Caucasian Americans, non-Japanese Asians, Japanese who were too old to serve in the military, etc.), but I feel like the end was a throwaway. There's this big dramatic moment, and then poof, the book is over. It was a really good book but left me unsatisfied at This is a good, but super short book. There are good looks at the psychology of Japanese-Americans who decided to serve in the military during WWII and the ones who refused ("no-no" people), as well as the people who are looking at them (Caucasian Americans, non-Japanese Asians, Japanese who were too old to serve in the military, etc.), but I feel like the end was a throwaway. There's this big dramatic moment, and then poof, the book is over. It was a really good book but left me unsatisfied at the last page. As a political note: I would have preferred not to read Penguin's 2019 republication edition because of copyright dispute issues with Shawn Wong and Okada's widow, but I couldn't find any other edition in any of my local libraries. grrr.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    This Asian American novel was so ahead of its time that it predates the concept of Asian America itself. One of our culture's greatest tragedies is that John Okada didn't live to claim the Asian American identity he so aptly embodied, and illustrated perhaps for the first time in our history, in the titular character. This masterpiece has gone mostly unnoticed from our own community, but it should be required reading for anyone who identifies as Asian American. If this were written by a white ma This Asian American novel was so ahead of its time that it predates the concept of Asian America itself. One of our culture's greatest tragedies is that John Okada didn't live to claim the Asian American identity he so aptly embodied, and illustrated perhaps for the first time in our history, in the titular character. This masterpiece has gone mostly unnoticed from our own community, but it should be required reading for anyone who identifies as Asian American. If this were written by a white man, it would have been among ranks of the great American novels like The Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this book. I was unaware of the treatment of Japanese-Americans following the internment camps and WWII. The book gives insight into the first and second generation Japanese and their struggle to gain acceptance in the United States. The first person narrator gives a heart-wrenching account of his return to Seattle after 2 years in prison for refusing to go to war for the US. The characters were well-developed and I could feel their pain. Because the main c I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this book. I was unaware of the treatment of Japanese-Americans following the internment camps and WWII. The book gives insight into the first and second generation Japanese and their struggle to gain acceptance in the United States. The first person narrator gives a heart-wrenching account of his return to Seattle after 2 years in prison for refusing to go to war for the US. The characters were well-developed and I could feel their pain. Because the main character tells his story, this is a good book to enjoy on audiotape.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    Stark yet vividly human, this is an intense book. It's insight into people seems particularly fair in scope at the same time that it presents a highly rooted perspective. I really wish this author had a chance to write more. It would have been well worth reading. Stark yet vividly human, this is an intense book. It's insight into people seems particularly fair in scope at the same time that it presents a highly rooted perspective. I really wish this author had a chance to write more. It would have been well worth reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    This tragic and important book was published in 1957 and read by almost no one until its re-issue in 1976. Reading it in 2019 is heartbreaking. Okada has written such a powerful, searing look at the Japanese-American community in the wake of WWII, the first “Japanese-American” novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Powerful book about an embarrassing period of American history.

  27. 4 out of 5

    stuti

    this book made me sad but i loved it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claire Reads Books

    3.5 ⭐️ This is more interesting as a historical document than a literary narrative, but there are still moments where this book soars (often during Ichiro’s anguished internal monologues).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andy Madajski

    On the surface, this is a novel about Ichiro Yamada, a Japanese-American man who went to prison for refusing to fight for the United States after he and his family were sent to internment camps on the west coast. The novel opens with him returning home from prison and being caught up in a series of conflicting methods of dealing with the aftermath of World War II. While it is about one man’s search for self-acceptance or meaning, I felt that it is also a powerful look at just how strong and subtl On the surface, this is a novel about Ichiro Yamada, a Japanese-American man who went to prison for refusing to fight for the United States after he and his family were sent to internment camps on the west coast. The novel opens with him returning home from prison and being caught up in a series of conflicting methods of dealing with the aftermath of World War II. While it is about one man’s search for self-acceptance or meaning, I felt that it is also a powerful look at just how strong and subtle and conflicting it is when systemic racism and patriotism are woven together in American culture. All of the characters sacrifice something to try to make their way in post-war society: hope, pride, culture, a leg. All of these things are required of the characters, yet they are still unable to fully integrate into the culture around them. While this is written about Japanese-Americans, I feel it can also be applied to just about any minority group in our country. This novel made me feel sad. Sad for Ichiro as he tries to fit in. Sad for the people he encounters who fail at their efforts in spite of their sacrifices. Sad for our country that even today cannot move past systemic racism without violence and pain.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brook Chromy

    Imagine yourself in a place of horror and terror. Waking up on the 7th of December and going to work and later on your co-worker is talking about Hawaii. Your thinking to yourself "What is going on in Hawaii. So you go and turn on the radio and Franken D. Roosevelt is talking about an attack that happened earlier in the morning. This attack is also known as "The Day Which Will Live In Infamy." After this message was broadcasted out to the American people they knew this was going to be another Wo Imagine yourself in a place of horror and terror. Waking up on the 7th of December and going to work and later on your co-worker is talking about Hawaii. Your thinking to yourself "What is going on in Hawaii. So you go and turn on the radio and Franken D. Roosevelt is talking about an attack that happened earlier in the morning. This attack is also known as "The Day Which Will Live In Infamy." After this message was broadcasted out to the American people they knew this was going to be another World War. Also this would change history forever and the face of World War II with the Americans being involved. The novel No-No Boy by John Okada taught me was so much different than what I would expect from the Japanese point of view, because earlier this year I did a research paper on The Attack on Pearl Harbor and the effects it brought to the American people and the whole face of the war. With this book I had a whole lot more knowledge and understanding of the novel. I can relate to this because what the protagonist Ichiro did some things during the novel that I would of done if I knew that my country was being targeted by a more powerful country. I would say the moral to No-No Boy is sometimes in life think twice before doing something that is unsure of. Things that Ichiro did in the book caused things to go south and some things that Ichiro did was accepting. Nevertheless, this was a great novel besides the drinking and parting that was going on during the novel and this is followed by a lot of strong language. I loved the thought that Okada did with his work and his experience that he had during the Second World War and being in camps. Although, this novel had a little to none with the military, this had to do with more of the life as a Japanese-American and how they lived the life in America during the 1940’s. I still loved it and I recommend for those who love history and for those who are interested in America’s History during the 1940’s. Just be warned of the strong language and the parties that is going on during the novel.

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