"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.
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.
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.
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.