No-No Boy

by John Okada

Paperback, 1976





Seattle : University of Washington Press, 1981, c1976.


"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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member break
This is the single published book of the author, who is a second generation Japanese-American. The book was first published in 1957 and then rediscover a few decades later after the author’s death. The story is covering more or less one week of a person’s life. He just got out of prison where he spent two years for refusing to signing up joining the US army during World War II. Before that he spent two years in the internation camp. His return to his home town, Seattle, is marked with soul searching, pain and death. Throughout the book the anti-hero tries to figure out why he said no, and what doe sit mean for his future. His mother escaped to cognitive dissonance and doesn’t accept/believe that her beloved Japan lost the war. When her son forced her to face the inevitable she dies. So does his friend who did join the army but lost his leg and during this crucial week he dies of an operation. There are other equally tragic characters (his younger bother who enlists to the army the day he turns 18, an abandoned wife, a painter who paints truck signs in an institute, the tough boy who provokes his own death…) all of them contributing to the protagonist’s doubts. He has no home, his past and future was taken away from him, his identity questioned. Strong and eye-opening book on the Japanese American’s situation after the war. It is not an autobiographical boo, the author did serve in the army.… (more)
LibraryThing member g0ldenboy
Historically important, gritty account of a Japanese who refused to fight in WWII. Identity struggle. Interesting read. Pending further review.
LibraryThing member kcslade
OK, somewhat harrowing novel of a Jap.-Amer. youth who made a bad decision and must live with it.
LibraryThing member lgaikwad
No-No Boy by John Okada is a Japanese-American experience after WWII internment camps and prison. Excellent follow-up to 'Silver Like Dust: One Family's Story of America's Japanese Internment' by Kimi Cunningham Grant.

Okada is a rare example of a Japanese-American published writer from the 1950s. A questionnaire was given to Japanese in camps which included 2 questions regarding the draft and renouncing Japanese allegiance (even though American citizenship was not an option). Young men who answered those questions "no," were called No-No Boys and taken to higher security and imprisonment. Okada writes of one No-No Boys angst-filled re-entry into Japanese and American community. I understood this book more because I read 'Silver Like Dust' first. Both were excellent.… (more)
LibraryThing member kchung_kaching
Unfortunately, this was Okada's only published work before he committed suicide. It's one thing to be a draft-dodger, but for Japanese Americans who wanted to prove their loyalty after being interned it meant a rejection of both Japanese and American identities.
LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
I'm not really sure what to say about No-No Boy. It's very tragic. Very true. Very well-written. It highlights an era of American history that is often, if not always, glossed over. I had no idea about Japanese-American issues before reading this book, and I must say that Ichiro's story told it very well.

The only thing I would say is that the ending felt very abrupt to me and I wanted a little bit more. Every time it felt like things were concluding, more would happen. And then more happened, and then it ended.… (more)
LibraryThing member HeidiSki
No-No Boy Summary. The novel opens as Ichiro, a no-no boy and second-generation Japanese American man, returns home to Seattle. World War II has just ended, and Ichiro is free for the first time in four years. He has spent two years in an internment camp, and the next two in prison, after he refused the draft.
LibraryThing member carebear10712
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

I understand why this is considered a classic; I was moved by the emotions and struggles of not only the main character, Ichiro, but by all of the characters, and how each was affected by their decisions regarding WWII, and even their greater life decisions (for example, Mama's views on Japan and America and WWII). It is well written but not plot driven. While I enjoyed reading it when I picked it up, I never felt compelled to pick it back up again when I wasn't reading. Even still, I think this novel will stay with me for a long time. All of the books I've read about Japanese Americans during WWII all took place before or during the war, so it was interesting to read a new perspective: what happens after the war, when people return home? There were many wonderful insights in this book...about being an immigrant, about being an American, and what that means...about racism and hatred and people. These insights and his beautiful writing ultimately land the book as "I liked it" even though the plot didn't fully capture my attention.… (more)




Other editions

No-no boy by John Okada (Paperback)
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