The Atlantic

John Okada’s No-No Boy Is a Test of American Character

The re-release of a classic novel about Japanese Americans’ incarceration during World War II is an opportunity to reflect on the nation’s persistent internal conflicts.
Source: Penguin Classics

No-No Boy is a daring book and, I would say, a test of and testament to character. There is no other novel like it about Japanese Americans in the postwar period. In the book, which is being released in a new edition this month, John Okada wrote of the reentry into civil society of young second-generation, or nisei, men who had served in the U.S. military during World War II. More particularly, through the character of Ichiro Yamada, he wrote of draft resisters who spent the war in prison. In so doing, he probed the intense center of the Japanese American community’s internal conflicts—confusions of loyalty and rights of citizenship, racial self-hatred and shame, the immigrant’s agony of failure and loss of a future, proscriptions of silence and resistance.

Okada was courageous in writing

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