No-No Boy

Important historical fiction about turning down the military draft in the wake of internment in Seattle.

No-No Boy

Classics of Asian American Literature

John Okada

No-No Boy is a fictionalized account of the life of Ichiro Yamada, one of the real-life “no-no boys.” In a mandatory government questionnaire, Yamada was asked if he would enlist in the military and pledge allegiance to the United States. He responded “no” twice. Ichiro receives two years in jail and faces hatred from his family and community upon his return to Seattle because he is unwilling to swear allegiance to the nation that imprisoned him and his family.

“No-No Boy” by John Okada stands as a poignant exploration of identity, loyalty, and the aftermath of World War II for Japanese Americans. Set against the backdrop of Seattle’s vibrant International District, Okada’s novel delves into the struggles faced by Japanese American communities in the wake of internment and the complex choices individuals were forced to make. Through the protagonist, Ichiro Yamada, Okada offers a deeply human portrayal of the internal conflicts and external pressures experienced by those labeled as “no-no boys” for their refusal to pledge allegiance to the United States or serve in the military during the war. Seamlessly weaving together themes of guilt, shame, and the search for redemption, “No-No Boy” is a powerful and thought-provoking read that resonates long after the final page. In its evocative portrayal of Seattle’s Japanese American community, the novel provides a lens through which to explore the enduring impact of historical injustices and the ongoing quest for identity and belonging.

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