The pages have been proofed, the index has been complied, and our book presenting new information on the life and unknown works of novelist John Okada is set to go to press in a few short weeks. But before you get a chance in July to see what’s inside, we are previewing the book at four upcoming special events this spring and summer.
JOHN OKADA is being launched with the academic community this weekend at the Association for Asian American Studies conference at the Westin St. Francis Hotel on San Francisco’s Union Square. The University of Washington Press is supporting us with the presence of editor-in-chief Larin McLaughlin and assistant editor Mike Baccam. They’ll have flyers at the UW Press table in the exhibit hall offering a conference special 30 percent discount with free shipping on preorders (hint for blog readers: use this new presale code of W812 when using the ordering page).
Conferees, please get an early start on your Saturday morning by joining co-editor Floyd Cheung, contributor Jeffrey Yamashita, and myself at 8:00 am in the Ascot Room for our panel on “The Life and Rediscovered Work of John Okada.” Co-editor Greg Robinson will moderate. I will present the new information from my biography of Okada, supported with a gallery of images drawn from the author’s life. Cheung will investigate the influence of Okada’s college writing instructor on the creation of several previously unknown short stories which show the young writer experimenting with genre a decade before No-No Boy. And Yamashita will review two generations of critical literature on No-No Boy, reflecting shifts in approaches by the academic community. It’s Panel S-12 in your program.
The hotel on Union Square is a return to the place where this “search for John Okada” started for me forty-five years ago. It’s a block from the Geary Theater and the American Conservatory Theater, which sponsored the Asian American Theater Workshop where I first met Frank Chin and the Combined Asian-American Resources Project and was introduced to Asian American history, Asian American literature, and the then-recent rediscovery of John Okada’s No-No Boy. It’s where I tried out Ichiro’s spinning interior monologue as a theater audition piece, and was caught in a photograph that book designer Bob Onodera used to design the cover for the 1976 CARP paperback reprint of No-No Boy.
I’ll return to San Francisco on Friday, May 25 for the 29th annual conference of the American Literature Association, a coalition of societies devoted to the study of American authors. Session 12-B at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Embaradero Center is titled “Okada and Beyond,” and it’s organized by The Circle for Asian American Literary Studies (CAALS). Chairs for our panel are Christine Kitano of Ithaca College and David Cho of Hope College. David helped us very early in our project with research into reviews and transcriptions of interviews.
At the Tule Lake Pilgrimage from June 29 to July 2, book contributor Martha Nakagawa and I will present a workshop on “John Okada, No-No Boy, and Reframing the False Constructions of Loyalty at Tule Lake.” Drawing from the argument in Martha’s chapter for our book, this workshop will and reject old stereotypes about the no-no’s and break down the government’s creation of “disloyals” through successive registration, segregation, and renunciation programs that were specific to Tule Lake. We will also reevaluate the way that Okada’s novel has popularized the term “no-no boy” in the public and inside our own community, and how the resistance of the no-no’s has been misunderstood over the years. Prof. Art Hansen will moderate.
Lastly, for the Minidoka Pilgrimage on July 5-8, I’m developing a workshop with the working title of “John Okada, No-No Boy, and the Draft Resistance at Minidoka, with a special focus on the many connections between Okada and Minidoka resister Jim Akutsu that inspired the character of Ichiro Yamada in No-No Boy.
Once the book is available in July, we’ll share a schedule of public events now being planned for Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, and perhaps New York. More to come on those. If you’d like to invite one of the co-editors for a book event in your city, please contact us now.