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.
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 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.