Tuesday, May 15, 2018

No-No Boy (Classics of Asian American Literature) Paperback – June 11, 2014 by John Okada (Author), Lawson Fusao Inada (Introduction), Ruth Ozeki (Foreword) (University of Washington Press)

Easily one of the best books I have ever read (I studied English in college. I've read a LOT of good books, including this one which was an assignment for an Asian-American literature class), extremely well-done and thought provoking. John Okada deserves more recognition as an author and i'm just very glad that there's finally a Kindle version available for this.

A lot of my classmates didn't like this book, but it was a very small class so I have a basic theory as to why:

They were fairly sheltered and they missed its point.

This is the only book I've studied where people didn't agree on the tone of the novel - generally, whether people like something or not, they can concede that it's hopeful, or dark, or terrifying, or what have you. I saw this book as dark but ultimately hopeful; those who didn't like it just saw the darkness...which is especially interesting to me because we started the semester reading America Is In The Heart, which is one of the most depressing novels I've read. We all agreed on that one. so why did this one cause such controversy?

Maybe it's honestly just because it's written better. Okada is very talented and very complex, there's a lot of nuance in this and a lot of conclusions that could be drawn from the characters and what they say and do. If you're leery about paying money for this, maybe try a library first. It's not a long book and a pretty quick read, no dragging descriptions or flowy language. I got right into it and finished it in less than a week, and I've read it 5 or 6 times in 3 years. Love it or not, in my opinion, it's a work of genius.

"No-No Boy has the honor of being the very first Japanese American novel," writes novelist Ruth Ozeki in her new foreword to John Okada's classic of Asian American literature. First published in 1956, 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."

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