Category Archives: Media issues

“JOHN OKADA” book launch at Asian American Studies conference

Greg speakingMany thanks to all the students and scholars who came to our book launch for JOHN OKADA at the Association for Asian American Studies conference at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel — whether to our panel on Saturday morning in the Grand Ballroom, or visiting the University of Washington Press table in the exhibit hall.

Greg Robinson opened our panel by reading the paper authored by contributor Jeff Yamashita reviewing two generations of critical literature on No-No Boy. Jeff was regrettably called away at the last minute
Frank at podium and unable to speak in person. I presented the life and rediscovered works of John Okada, with the help of 40-plus photographs, only a few of which appear in the book. Floyd Cheung spoke about Okada’s studies in creative writing with Professor Grant Redford at the University of Washington after coming back from the war, showing how Okada experimented with various storytelling devices in his five long-unseen short stories and how he later deployed those devices in No-No Boy. We then pulled the chairs into a panel roundtablecircle for a roundtable discussion of how we discovered the new Okada material, and other literary influences that might have gone into No-No Boy.

book editors holding bookAt the UW Press table, editor-in-chief Larin McLaughlin and assistant editor Mike Baccam talked up the book to everyone who stopped by. Our production editor Margaret Sullivan worked furiously over the last several weeks to produce the bound galleys that Larin Frank holding bookand Mike were pleased to bring to the conference. As Greg observed, no matter how many times he’s published, there’s nothing like the moment of finally holding a new book in one’s hand. We hope to have the finished books ready to ship in time for the Tule Lake and Minidoka Pilgrimages this summer. You can still preorder the book and get the conference special of 30 percent off and free domestic shipping, with the presale code of W812.  

The #AAAS2018 conference marks the start of a long journey over the next year to share our new research with the community, with a stop already planned for #AAAS2019 in Madison, Wisconsin and possibly the nearby Chicago area. See you on the road.

Pre-publication book events for “JOHN OKADA”

John Okada at desk in New York City, 1949The 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 Association for Asian American Studies logoUW 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, we will present a a workshop on “No-No Boys, John Okada, and Reframing the False Constructions of Loyalty at Tule Lake.”  Drawing from the argument in Martha’s chapter for our book, and rejecting old stereotypes, this workshop will break down the false constructions of loyalty and disloyalty created by the government at Tule Lake through registration, segregation, and renunciation. We will examine the life of novelist John Okada, whose novel No-No Boy incorrectly framed the perception of Tule Lake resisters in the public and inside our own community.  Takako Day, author of Show Me the Way to Go Home: The Moral Dilemma of Kibei No-No Boys in World War Two Incarceration Camps, will speak about  Kibei dissenters at Tule Lake whom she interviewed in Japanese. We will also preview the storyline of my forthcoming graphic novel chronicling Japanese American resistance to incarceration, with a special focus on how the book seeks to reframe the registration crisis and renunciation at Tule Lake as expressions of protest and resistance. Moderator Art Hansen will lead a Q and A discussion. He will touch upon his new book, Nisei Naysayer, describe how journalist James Omura initially misunderstood the protest at Tule Lake against the loyalty oath, and compare the resistance at Tule Lake with other examples of dissent covered in his other forthcoming new book, Barbed Voices.

Lastly, for the Minidoka Pilgrimage on July 5-8, I’m Minidoka PIlgrimage logodeveloping 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.

Making February 19 a Day of Resistance

I realize there’s too much to focus on right now, between keeping kids safe from guns, the Russian indictments, and more, but February 19 is coming up. Please join Dale Minami and others in making this Day of Remembrance a Day of Resistance as well by signing this open letter. This is part of a national strategy for Japanese Americans who remember the camps to formally stand with Muslim Americans, led by the one-time coram nobis attorneys who are getting the band back together to file an amicus brief in the names of Korematsu, HIrabayashi, and Yasui as the Supreme Court rules on the Muslim travel ban.

hands cutting barbed wire

Add Your Name to an Open Letter to the Country
Continue reading Making February 19 a Day of Resistance

John Okada: His life and unknown work revealed in forthcoming book

UW Press book coverWe’re pleased to announce the publication in July 2018 of a new book  from the University of Washington Press that reveals new information about the life of John Okada and brings to light his unknown works.

Preorder now through the UW Press and use the promo code WST30 to get a 30% discount.

Here’s the synopsis just released by the UW Press on page 8 of its new Spring 2018 catalog. Continue reading John Okada: His life and unknown work revealed in forthcoming book

New translation of “NO-NO BOY” for the 21st century

Ryusuke KawaiJournalist Ryusuke Kawai says he decided to re-translate John Okada’s No-No Boy because readers found the previous rendering in Japanese to be filled with archaic words and incorrect grammar that made them put down the book. Kawai spoke to an attentive audience in Seattle on March 11, as a guest of former Uwajimaya CEO Tomio Moriguchi.
Continue reading New translation of “NO-NO BOY” for the 21st century

When was the term “No-No Boy” first used?

Thanks to theSuyama Project panelists 60 who joined us on March 12 at the Suyama Project panel to hear about the life of John Okada and how he wove his experiences into his landmark novel NO-NO BOY.

At the panel, historian Roger Daniels asked a provocative question: “When does the term ‘no-no boy’ first appear in print?” No one in the room could say.  Continue reading When was the term “No-No Boy” first used?

When was the term “No-No Boy” first used?

Thanks to theSuyama Project panelists 60 who joined us on March 12 at the Suyama Project panel to hear about the life of John Okada and how he wove his experiences into his landmark novel NO-NO BOY.

At the panel, historian Roger Daniels asked a provocative question: “When does the term ‘no-no boy’ first appear in print?” No one in the room could say.  Continue reading When was the term “No-No Boy” first used?

Upcoming program on no-no boys and “NO-NO BOY,” the novel

Suyama panel flyerPreparing my remarks now for a discussion in Seattle on March 12 with noted historians Roger Daniels and Barbara Takei on a topic that still opens wounds today. Register for free here.  

As we’ve written before, the goal of  the Eji Suyama, 100th Battalion/442nd RCT Draftees, No-Nos, Draft Resisters and Renunciants Archival Collection Endowment at UCLA is to preserve the history of the entire range of dissidence and resistance to the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans.

The project is coming to Seattle for Roger and Barbara to preview their much-anticipated new book on Tule Lake and the notorious Segregation Center, while I will talk about the life of novelist John Okada, author of the foundational novel, No-No Boy, and how he drew upon the story of the draft resisters and set it against the places he grew up in here in postwar Seattle. Read more in the Suyama Project news release. I’ll share new research and insights into the life of Okada, and some of the inspirations that went into his work.

Continue reading Upcoming program on no-no boys and “NO-NO BOY,” the novel

ALLEGIANCE uplifts by doctoring Japanese American history

Thanks for finding this post via links from Wikipedia, the New York Times and other reviews. See the real story of the Heart Mountain resisters as told in our PBS film, Conscience and the Constitution. Order here.

SPOILER ALERT: This theater preview reveals an absurd central plot point.Curtain call on Oct. 6

The implied pact the musical Allegiance makes with its audience is that you will see an honest retelling of the Japanese American incarceration, and come away feeling comfortably uplifted. The show does entertain, through derivative songs and animated production. It achieves its effect, however, by sacrificing truth for theatricality, revising history, and offering a ludicrous portrayal of the Heart Mountain resisters.

As producer/director of the 2000 PBS film, Conscience and the Constitution – which first framed the conflict between the organized resistance led by Frank Emi, and suppression of that resistance by the Japanese American Citizens League, led by Mike Masaoka – I’ve been asked how the musical performs as history.

After seeing the first public preview October 6 at New York’s Longacre Theater, it is apparent the makers of Allegiance found the fact of civilian administration of America’s concentration camps so ordinary and banal – which it was – that they needed to heighten the obstacles to their themes of love and hope by conflating Heart Mountain with the worst of the segregation center at Tule Lake, near the California-Oregon border. They invent military rule at Heart Mountain. 

Allegiance is billed as a fiction “inspired by the true-life experience of its star George Takei,” who was imprisoned as a child at Rohwer and Tule Lake. But the only events validated by his personal experience are those of every camp story – fictional family at home, Pearl Harbor, selling the farm cheap, dust and dances in camp, yes-yes/no-no, and war’s end. Once that family, here called the Kimura’s, is evicted from home and reaches the War Relocation Authority center in Wyoming, the makers of Allegiance selectively and progressively alter the reality governing Heart Mountain to more closely suggest that of a German POW camp.

In Act I for example, upon their arrival at faux Heart Mountain, a campwide PA system broadcasts directives to evacuees, while Military Police order “women to the right, men to the left.” Hannah, a white nurse, asks the women to “please remove your clothes down to your underwear” for medical exams. When an Issei woman protests, a young man explodes, “It’s not right!” and is forcibly shoved to the ground by an MP. The PA announces a curfew at sundown. When the Kimura patriarch later angrily answers no-no on his loyalty questionnaire, MP’s march to his barrack to clap him into handcuffs and haul him away: “No touching,” they bark to his family.

Camp was degrading. It was dehumanizing. But this heavy-handed treatment inflames emotion at the expense of fact:

Continue reading ALLEGIANCE uplifts by doctoring Japanese American history

REVIEW: A jarring addition to new edition of “No-No Boy”

No-No Boy cover illustrationWhen the University of Washington Press republished one of its most enduring titles with a new cover and introduction, editor Alan Lau of the International Examiner’s Pacific Reader section asked me to critique the new edition, to report on whether the book still stands the test of time after nearly 60 years, and what it says to us now. What I found was a jarring and misguided addition made by the Press to John Okada’s text, in its otherwise fine new paperback edition.

** UPDATE April 3, 2018: Through the magic of digital printing, the John Okada “signature” has now been removed from the Preface on new press runs of No-No Boy. Thanks to UW Press for its responsiveness to this issue.

Still the Great Japanese American Tragedy

No-No Boy by John Okada
the new University of Washington Press edition

reviewed by Frank Abe
special to the International Examiner, July 15-August 4, 2015

The appearance of the first new edition of John Okada’s No-No Boy in nearly 40 years offers the chance for re-evaluation of his work. As someone with a long connection with the novel, I find there’s much to like about the new edition – and one thing profoundly wrong.

After more than 100,000 copies in 13 printings, the University of Washington Press has republished this foundational work along with five others in its “Classics of Asian American Literature” series, with new covers and introductions.

First, the good. The new cover illustration reflects a lot of thought. I’ll miss the menace of the 1976 design by Bob Onodera of San Francisco, with the flags of the U.S. and Imperial Japan peering from the eyes of draft resister Ichiro Yamada’s surly face, partly because Bob based it on a photograph of myself taken the year before at the Asian American Theater Workshop. He designed the title with Army stencil font against a brown background that suggests the texture of a paper grocery bag of the kind used at Yamada grocery …

So here’s the problem with this new edition: At the end of the Preface, someone added the name “John Okada,” as if he had signed it as a statement from the author.

This attribution never existed in the original Tuttle hardcover overseen by Okada, or the CARP paperback reprint. It was not authorized by the Okada family. It interrupts the dream woven by Okada’s fiction, and violates Okada’s artistic intent. Read more …

page from newspaper