"No-No Boy has the honor of being among the first of what has become an entire literary canon of Asian American literature," writes novelist Ruth Ozeki in her new foreword. First published in 1957, No-No Boy was virtually ignored by a public eager to put World War II and the Japanese internment behind them. It was not until the mid-1970s that a new generation of Japanese American writers and scholars recognized the novel's importance and popularized it as one of literature's most powerful testaments to the Asian American experience.
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."
The first edition of No-No Boy since 1979 presents this important work to new generations of readers.
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About the Author
John Okada was born in Seattle in 1923. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II, attended the University of Washington and Columbia University, and died of a heart attack at the age of 47. No-No Boy is his only published novel.
Asian American readers will appreciate the sensitivity and integrity with which the late John Okada wrote about his own group. He heralded the beginning of an authentic Japanese American literature.--Gordon Hirabayashi "Pacific Affairs "
Nisei will recognize the authenticity of the idioms Okada's characters use, as well as his descriptions of the familiar Issei and Nisei mannerisms that make them come alive.--Bill Hosokawa "Pacific Citizen "
[This new edition] brings Okada's groundbreaking work to a new generation . . . an internee and enlisted man himself, [Okada] wrote in a raw, brutal stream of consciousness that echoes the pain and intergenerational conflict faced by those struggling to reconcile their heritage to the concept of an American dream.-- (01/01/2014)
It is both an important document of Japanese American and Pacific Northwest history and a compelling novel.-- (01/01/2014)
It's incorrect to say that No-No Boy is a forgotten masterwork. . . but it isn't often acknowledged for articulating what had never been said before. The novel was a turning point in the consciousness of Japanese-Americans, and of Asian-Americans more generally--it marked the moment when identity shifted away from the homeland, away from Japan, because Japan was a country that Nisei, like Okada, never really quite knew. It was a novel that struggled to understand the entitlement that came so easily to other Americans--to explain why so few Japanese-Americans protested what had been done to them, that explored the shame of an immigrant who doesn't feel he has a place in the world.--T: The New York Times Style Magazine
Reading No-No Boy, this week, it no longer seemed bound to its past; it felt like a prophecy, a cosmic tragedy, a message in a bottle that arrives a half century later.--Hua Hsu "Page-Turner "
No-No Boy may be read as a test of character, quiestioning the rigid binary of loyalty--yes or no--and teaching us what makes us human and complex, what constitutes character, are all the questions and cares that exist between yes and no: ethical and political choices, our best intentions, our social and cultural being, beliefs, courage, fears, failures, and compassion. More than half a century later, Okada's novel challenges us once again with the question of character, asking us, as individuals and as a society, what we are made of.-- (01/01/2019)
In 2019, No-No Boy is bigger than it's ever been.--Vince Schleitwiler "The Margins "