Category Archives: “No-No Boy”

Campaign launched to support UW Press edition of “No-No Boy”

Buyer beware: The edition of No-No Boy published by the University of Washington Press is the only edition authorized by the family of John Okada. The largest publisher in the US is now opportunistically exploiting a loophole in the copyright to bring out its own unauthorized knock-off.

I am not a direct party to the copyright, so please do not pursue me for a further explication of the legal proceedings, but as the co-editor of a new anthology on the life and work of John Okada — one that is also published by the UW Press — and as a friend to the Okada family, this blog has an interest. So here is what our friend Shawn Wong wrote May 31 on his Facebook page:

On December 10, 1976, I copyrighted the novel, No-No Boy, on behalf of Dorothy Okada, the widow of John Okada, in preparation for publishing the CARP (Combined Asian-American Resources Project) edition of the novel when no publisher would reissue the book. We used our own money to publish No-No Boy.

This month Penguin released their version of No-No Boy, claiming that the novel is in the public domain thus bypassing consultation with the Okada family and stepping on the University of Washington Press version of the book, which they have been publishing for 40 years, following the CARP edition and have sold 157,000 copies.

Shame on Penguin for narrowly interpreting my copyright for their own financial gain and without consulting with the Okada family.

Shawn elaborated in further online comments:

Penguin rights people and lawyers are claiming I only copyrighted the introduction to the CARP printing. That’s a truly narrow interpretation and an interpretation solely for the financial gain of Penguin so that they can bypass both my copyright and the Okada family. That is a moral outrage.

It’s complicated because the novel was first published in Japan. I copyrighted it in the US in 1976 for the Okada family. Penguin is claiming I filled out form wrong and only copyrighted part of the new printing, which is bullshit. The UW Press honored the copyright, but Penguin decided not to. Let me ask this, why would I publish a novel and not register the copyright properly?

Penguin would have been fully aware that the UW Press has been publishing the novel for 40 years. (Lawyers for the UW Press) tried (to stop this publication) and failed, but UW Press retains all foreign rights and film rights. That aside, to not consult with the Okada family is a travesty and does injury to all Asian American writers. The legal fight is over, but the social media war is just beginning.

The University of Washington Press has made a 40 year commitment to publishing Asian American literature and those of us in the field as writers, artists and scholars should continue to support the UW Press over the carpetbaggers.

If you use No-No Boy in your classes, please continue to order the Univ. of Washington Press version of the novel, and your order will support university presses and independent publishers.

Penguin also will release Bulosan’s America is in the Heart which the UW Press ALSO publishes. It’s infuriating. It’s infuriating, shameful, and Penguin released it during Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

UW Press has kept the book in print for more than 40 years, serving students and general readers. The book has never gone out of print since 1976. Whether or not the largest publisher in the US has a legal right to now bring out an unauthorized edition of No-No Boy,  you can judge for yourself whether it has a moral right.

From the UW Press, we’ve learned the book was automatically copyrighted under Japanese law when Charles Tuttle first published No-No Boy in Japan in 1957, and that copyright was respected in all Berne Convention countries. However, according to an expert attorney retained by UW Press, the US was not a signatory to the Berne Convention at the time, and Tuttle evidently did not file copyright in the US. In addition, John Okada was a citizen of the US, not Japan. As a result, the argument goes, the work was not “re-captured” from the public domain when the US finally joined the Berne Convention in 1989, nor during successive copyright reforms in the decades that followed.

As you can see above, the US Copyright Office granted a copyright to Dorothy Okada in 1976, through the application made on her behalf by a 26-year old Shawn Wong, and when you look at all correspondence from him at the time it’s clear that he understood the copyright was for the full text of No-No Boy. However, according to attorneys, it appears the issue with the Berne Convention is the controlling issue here.

Lawyers for Penguin Random House have asserted the work is in the public domain in the US, and that they have the right to publish it, with no royalties to the Okada family. However, according to UW Press, the work remains covered by the Okada copyright in all other major territories including Japan, the UK, and the European Union. Dorothy Okada passed in 2011, and her heirs have been satisfied to have UW Press handle the legal work for them. Worldwide ancillary rights remain with Okada’s children, and continue to be administered for them by UW Press.

Proof that Penguin ripped off the UW Press edition can be found on p. xxv. You can see in this photo provided by Eddie Chern the erroneous “John Okada” signature at the end of the Preface. As we reported in this blog post at the time, that error was made only in the 2014 redesign of the UW Press edition with the blue Jillian Tamaki cover. It has since been corrected. It was never in the original Tuttle hardcover or the CARP paperback. Penguin simply scanned the earliest version of the UW Press edition.

While the Penguin knock-off has a new introduction by Karen Tei Yamashita, she bears no responsibility for this unauthorized edition. Karen sought out this writer at a JANM event and also at AAAS to inform me of her involvement and to say that she was never told of any legal issues. Our thanks and appreciation go to Karen for making it a point in her Introduction to acknowledge the role of CARP and Shawn in bringing the novel back to light, and to mention our new JOHN OKADA anthology. Very classy.

Says Shawn: Please do not blame Karen for any of this. I’ve spoken to her and Penguin, of course, didn’t tell her any of the rights violation, etc. She’s innocent in all of this and there would’ve been no reason for Karen to know any of the business side of the contract.

The other shameful thing is Penguin is using quotes from Ruth Ozeki’s essay that’s published in the UW Press version of No-No Boy in their publicity.

In sum, when it comes to a purchase or assignment in a course syllabus, please support the University of Washington Press edition of No-No Boy. It’s the only edition authorized by the family of John Okada. It is also the only edition with the benefit of what, after 40 years, are now primary documents: Lawson Inada’s introduction and Frank Chin’s Afterword, both of which give your students the story of how the novel was lost and came to be found and republished by CARP.

Prof. Emily Lawsin goes further and suggests on Facebook that, “Faculty ordering textbooks should order using the UW Press ISBN (9780295994048) and mark ‘no other edition acceptable’ on book order forms.”

UPDATES: On June 6, 2019, the New York Times broke this story in the mainstream media with “Dispute Arises Over ‘No-No Boy,’ a Classic of Asian-American Literature With a Complex History.” The story quotes the Okada Estate:

Dorothea Okada, John Okada’s daughter, said her family was unaware of any issues with their claim to the copyright, and that the family wasn’t contacted by Penguin before the new edition was published. The Okadas have been receiving royalties from the University of Washington Press for several decades, and it’s unclear whether they will get any compensation from the Penguin edition. (Penguin declined to say whether the Okadas will receive royalties, saying the company would contact the family directly.)

“The university press has done a really good job guiding the book, so we were really happy with what they’ve been doing, and I don’t think a bigger press would do anything for it,” Dorothea Okada said. “We would never change publishers.”

News coverage:
— New York Times, “Dispute Arises Over ‘No-No Boy,’ a Classic of Asian-American Literature With a Complex History” by Alexandra Alter, June 6 2019
— Los Angeles Times, “New edition of Japanese America novel ‘No-No Boy’ sparks backlash,” by Tracy Brown, June 7, 2019
— Seattle Times,How those who saved a classic novel are fighting to keep it in local hands,” by Moira Macdonald, June 13, 2019
— South China Morning Post, “Classic Japanese-American novel No-No Boy caught up in copyright dispute,” June 18, 2019
— International Examiner, “Social media tempest brings new attention to Asian American literary classics,” by Vince Schleitwiler, June 20, 2018

So far, four Seattle-area booksellers have returned their Penguin Classics edition, saying they will stock only the UW Press edition: the Elliott Bay Book Company, Third Place Books, University Bookstore, and Phinney Books.

“JOHN OKADA” and the Day of Remembrance in New York City

The Japanese American community in each city is unique, but the team effort in New York City that is JAJA (Japanese Americans and Japanese in America) is truly special. Julie Azuma provides the space but everyone pitches in bring potlock, set up, and clean up. The collective energy really brings everyone together, and the audience focus is amazing. We had a lively discussion of the life and work of Photo: Susan McCormac HamakerJohn Okada in a living room setting, and the night was made more special with the presence of John’s niece, Beverly Okada of Long Island (seated next to me on the sofa with the vest). Continue reading “JOHN OKADA” and the Day of Remembrance in New York City

Full house for Los Angeles book launch of “JOHN OKADA”

photo by Nancy OdaAngelenos react to a rainstorm as Seattleites do to snow: it’s an excuse to stay indoors. So we have many thanks to all those who braved the rain in Los Angeles last week to come to our JOHN OKADA launch events at USC, UCLA, and the Japanese American National Museum.
photo by Cory Shiozaki
The full house of 250 that packed the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at JANM was especially fun.  The discussion was lively and it was a real treat to see so many friends there, including Martha Nakagawa, Naomi Hirahara, Karen Tei Yamashita, Nobuko Miyamoto, Tak Hoshizaki,  and Masumi Izumi even flew in from Japan for the weekend.  Our special guests for the event were John Okada’s children from Pasadena, Dorothea Okada and Matthew Okada, who contributed so much time in the writing of their father’s biography. Continue reading Full house for Los Angeles book launch of “JOHN OKADA”

See video of Seattle book launch for “JOHN OKADA”

The Seattle book launch for JOHN OKADA was a fun one, thanks to the 85 people who joined us to celebrate the legacy of the Seattle novelist and help launch our new book on his life and unknown works.

speakers on panel Continue reading See video of Seattle book launch for “JOHN OKADA”

The first reviews are in for “JOHN OKADA”

Two early reviews, a podcast, and a Facebook Live video. First, thanks go to Edgar-Award winning novelist Naomi Hirahara for taking the time to comment on our book.

cover of Nichi Bei Times Nikkei literary pioneer re-examined reviewed by Naomi Hirahara, Nichi Bei Weekly, July 19. 2018

It’s an extremely readable book, a must-have companion piece to Okada’s novel … Abe, who lives in Okada’s early stomping grounds of Seattle, wrote the precise, well-researched 100-page biography of the author.

Continue reading The first reviews are in for “JOHN OKADA”

In Memoriam: Yosh Kuromiya, the man who drew the line

Yosh Kuromiya

The last major Nisei figure interviewed in our film is gone. We are mourning the loss of Heart Mountain resister Yosh Kuromiya at the age of 95. Continue reading In Memoriam: Yosh Kuromiya, the man who drew the line

“JOHN OKADA” and graphic novel presentations at Tule Lake and Minidoka

graphic novel presentation at Tule Lake PilgrimageTule Lake and Minidoka were two very different experiences for inmates, as I discovered after spending a week on the road at each of their camp pilgrimages.  But one thing stayed the same, and that was the warm reception given to our dual presentations on both JOHN OKADA and our graphic novel on camp resistance with the working title, We Hereby Refuse. Continue reading “JOHN OKADA” and graphic novel presentations at Tule Lake and Minidoka

Read an outtake chapter from the forthcoming “John Okada”

JOHN OKADA book spinesAdvance copies of JOHN OKADA: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy arrived in the mail this week, and the books are a joy to hold. The covers feel good in the hand, with the same texture as the 2014 paperback edition of No-No Boy itself.  I’ll be lugging dozens of copies on the bus to the upcoming Tule Lake and Minidoka Pilgrimages for the booksellers there. If you’re also going, please signal your attendance at these Facebook Events for our Tule Lake workshop, “No-No Boys, John Okada, and the Kibei Resistance at Tule Lake,” with Martha Nakagawa and Takako Day on July 1, or at the Minidoka panel, “John Okada, No-No Boy, and the Draft Resistance at Minidoka, on July 6.

Discover Nikkei logoIn advance of our imminent publication, which is now slated for July 13,  co-editor Greg Robinson has just posted a treat for you — an outtake from our book, something we really tried to get in but could not fit into our maximum page count. It’s a look at how No-No Boy was originally received in 1957, titled “First Impressions: Early Reviews of John Okada’s No-No Boy.”  The article appears on the Discover Nikkei blog, and we’ve provided links to the texts of all the 1957 reviews cited by Greg here on this blog. Continue reading Read an outtake chapter from the forthcoming “John Okada”

“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. Continue reading “JOHN OKADA” book launch at Asian American Studies conference

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. Continue reading Pre-publication book events for “JOHN OKADA”