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No-No Boy (Classics of Asian American Literature) Paperback – February 1, 1978

4.2 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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.

(Nancy Powell Shelf Awareness 2014-01-00)

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.


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Product Details

  • Series: Classics of Asian American Literature
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (February 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295955252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295955254
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In my AP English Literature class, I had a choice of reading any novel of "literary merit" I wanted, and to complete a 25 page analysis of the novel. Of the four books I analyzed in this way this year, No-No Boy was by far my favorite. I am caucasian, yet have always been interested in the dark side of America's role in World War II - the Japanese internment camps. This book is a vivid portrayal of one young man's suffering due to his decision not to swear loyalty to a country that had foresaken his rights as a citizen, and the consequences that result from this decision. Okada deals with a very touchy subject in this novel, for both the white and Japanese-American communities. Ichiro's self-inflicted punishment helps the reader to realize just how awful this experience was for the real No-no boys. This realistic portrayal is rather ironic, since Okada himself chose to serve the United States loyally in the army during World War II. Perhaps this novel was written from the side of him that related more to his Japanese roots than to his newfound American identity, and the guilt he himself must have carried when serving in the Pacific, telling Japanese to surrender in their own language. Okada also deals with a seemingly untouchable issue - that of the discrimination the Japanese-Americans themselves practiced toward other U.S. citizens, although they faced discrimination themselves. This adds to the truthfulness of the novel. Perhaps the only disappointing aspect to the novel is the all-American, happy ending that seems a little too contrived, although it must have been necessary for Okada to write the novel this way in order to gain any readers, because the novel's subject was so controversial at the time it was written.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
It is sad that John Okada wrote only one novel in his life, but it gives me great joy just to mention this book to anyone. _No-No Boy_ is a novel that deals with the high emotions of those felt by Japanese Americans during the tumulous times of the second world war. It is a time when American citizens are incarcerated into "relocation centers" without any wrong doing except that their last names were Okada, Sone, and Ikeda. However, as John Okada traces the story of Kenji, a nisei who refused to answer yes to the loyalty questionaire, we do not feel any strong bitterness about the whole situation that could be all too common in such a text. This touching novel is ultimately about one's search for a home, for loyalty, and for acceptance into society. These themes, while prevalent in many Japanese American texts written about this time period, are universal and can be shared by anyone who has ever felt the pangs of loneliness associated with being an outcast. If anyone is interested in reading more about fiction, good fiction on these issues, there is no book I could recommend more highly than this one. John Okada's book is the ultimate in Asian American literature and should be required reading for all those who want to read more about American history and American literature
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Format: Paperback
Ichiro, the main character in John Okada's novel, "The No-No Boy", is put an a very unusual situation - because of his past decisions a lot of his peers do not accept him as Japanese or American.

John Okada does a brilliant job of getting the reader to empathize with the Ichiro's struggle to find direction after being held in an internment camp (jail) for two years. His mother is happy he made the decision to refuse service in the United States Army, his brother believes him a coward, and his father has turned to whiskey for comfort from the constant tug-o-war created by war. He has friends who have sacificed more than he, but are satisfied with his decision to not go to war, and he has friends who never tasted true battle but despise him for not doing so.

At times, I was getting bored with Ichiro's constant whining about his predicament, but Okada did a good job of easing up the saga when it was almost too much and then bringing it back when necessary.

It must have been difficult to try and live in a country that believed you had to prove your loyalty because people who looked like you had attacked your nation of birth. This novel does a good job of making one think about the struggles Japanese-American went through before, during, and after the war.

Okada manages to create dialogue that is not so predictable it becomes a too easy of a read. He keeps the characters in this novel above the routine writing style of most authors.

This book is easy to read, thought-provoking, and contains enough fictional and non-fictional information to make for an entertaining novel.

See ya next review!
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Format: Paperback
John Okada explores race and identity in postwar North America with an unflinching, sensitive eye. His protagonist is a Japanese-American who has spent the duration of the war in prison for refusing military service, on the advice of his mother, who believed the Japanese emperor would call them all home some day. He struggles with the consequences of that decision for the remainder of the novel. This isn't simply a Japanese-American internment story, but a rich analysis of what it means to be non-white in the United States, and all the pain and joy that accompanies such an identity.
Beyond the compelling subject matter, his prose is poetic, visceral, gently engaging of all the senses. The dialogue is evocative without being bogged down by elaborate dialect. Okada has a talent for a natural, flowing narrative voice that almost dreamily leads the reader through complex emotional issues. I cannot understand reviewers who criticized this book as "preachy" - in fact, Okada seems to go out of his way to avoid expressing personal opinions on how the reader should feel about the events described. Never did I feel he was driving home a moral lesson or other.
The framework of the discovery of the novel - as explained in the forward by Frank Chin - is another tragic and dramatic story in itself. Chin's white-hot rage at the loss of Okada's research and papers fairly bristles off the page. The forward is a passionate essay about the birth of Asian-American literature and is worth a read on its own.
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