Tuesday, March 28, 2017

No-no boy

No-no boy / John Okada, 259 pgs.

Ichiro Yamada returns home to Seattle after WWII.  He spent two years in an internment camp, then two years in prison for refusing to serve in the military.  He has some anger issues.  Worse, his mother has some denial issues.  She does not believe that Japan has lost the war.  She is proud that her son did not serve in the American military and hopes he relocates to Japan for a better life.  The letters from her family in Japan begging for her to send supplies are faked, she believes, as a part of an intricate propaganda campaign. Ichiro's father is now a high functioning alcoholic and his brother is an angry 18-year old who is signing up to join the army in hopes of decreasing the family shame.

Set in the few weeks after Ichiro returns home, this book is an incredible account of one Japanese-American man who is struggling with his history, his background and his inability to fit into society.  It is perhaps, the first Japanese-American novel.  Originally published in 1957, the book fell into obscurity until it was "discovered" and republished in the mid 1970's.  An amazing work that illuminates the struggles of Japanese-Americans in the 1940's.

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