Category Archives: “John Okada:” the book

Resisters, Redress and John Okada On Display at Wing Luke Museum

A belated post to catch up on the October 14 opening of the RESISTERS: A Legacy of Movement From the Japanese American Incarceration at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. It’s certainly my kind of subject, so I’m grateful to Mikala Woodward and her team at the Wing for accepting some of my suggestions for display out of our discussions on the Citizens Advisory Committee. Some things pulled off my wall and bookshelf for this show, but keep reading to learn about one exceptional hidden gem in this exhibit.

The difference between “no-no boys” and draft resisters

It’s common in books and articles to see the term “no-no boy” conflated with the Nisei draft resisters of WW2. These are two seperate and distinct groups. A quick primer:

text from loyalty questionnaireNo-no boys” were among the 12,000 from all ten camps who answered “no” or refused to answer the final two questions on a notoriously misleading government questionnaire in early 1943. This led to their removal from camp and transfer under an administrative process to a War Relocation Authority Segregation Center established as a kind of penal colony at Tule Lake.

courtroom photoDraft resisters were the roughly 315 young men from all ten camps who in general answered “yes” or a qualified “yes” to the questionnaire but who, a year later in 1944, refused to be drafted from inside an American concentration camp until their rights were first restored and their families freed to return home. All but 22 were criminally convicted in U.S. District Court of violating the Selective Service Act. The older men were sent to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas; the younger ones were sent to McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary south of Seattle.

text from loyalty questionnaire

What blurs this distinction is the title of John Okada’s 1957 novel. It’s titled No-No Boy but it’s clearly about a protagonist who refuses the draft at Minidoka and serves two years at McNeil Island before arriving on a bus back in Seattle at the start of the novel. Despite the book’s title, he’s a draft resister, not strictly speaking a “no-no boy.” However, the term is used in the novel and in conversation at the time as a dismissive slur for any kind of camp dissident.

Please keep these distinctions in mind when writing about this history.

National Day of Remembrance tops February events

As the month for the annual Day of Remembrance, February is always the busiest time of year for speaking requests. This year being the 80th anniversary of EO 9066, A friend counted 33 DOR events nationwide. I have nine on the books myself, a personal record, including four on February 19th.
Continue reading National Day of Remembrance tops February events

The North American Post interview

In Seattle, the North American Post is the successor to the prewar Hokubei Jiji newspaper that Fuyo Tanagi helped edit, before she wrote the letter protesting the drafting of Nisei boys from camp for the Mothers Society of Minidoka. So it is an honor to be interviewed by Elaine Ikoma Ko in this wide-ranging exchange on No-No Boy, John Okada and We Hereby Refuse for the cover of the current issue of the Post.

Read the interview in the North American Post here.
Continue reading The North American Post interview

John Okada in Detroit History Podcast

Okada at Chrysler Missile (photo: Yoshito Okada family)
Okada at his desk in 1957 at the Chrysler Missile Operations plant in Sterling Township, Michigan (photo: the Yoshito Okada family)

The story of how John Okada migrated to Detroit in 1953 — where he wrote the great American novel, No-No Boy — is told in a new interview for the Detroit History Podcast.

Continue reading John Okada in Detroit History Podcast

The Alien Enemy Hearing Boards at Fort Missoula

drawing of FBI interrogation
from “We Hereby Refuse,” Chin Music Press, artwork by Ross Ishikawa

At this weekend’s education conference for the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium, we’ll get a  virtual tour of the restored courtroom at Fort Missoula, and I’ll show how we used a transcript of a hearing inside that courtroom for a key scene in our graphic novel, We Hereby Refuse.

Continue reading The Alien Enemy Hearing Boards at Fort Missoula

Bringing John Okada to the global stage

Scottish International Storytelling Festival logoOur favorite novel is getting more exposure in Europe.

I’m unexpectedly representing Seattle as a UNESCO City of Literature at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.  For the  program on Thursday, October 21, I will virtually present two stories about John Okada and the writing of No-No Boy. Continue reading Bringing John Okada to the global stage

Coming in 2023: The John Okada Centennial Year

John Okada © Yoshito Okada family
John Okada’s high school graduation portrait
© Yoshito Okada family

Novelist John Okada would have been 98 years old today. This means that two years from today, we will be observing the 100th anniversary of his birth.

To celebrate his legacy and honor his work in writing the great Japanese American wartime novel, a number of institutional partners are being recruited for a series of events to observe 2023 as the John Okada Centennial Year in his native city of Seattle.  Continue reading Coming in 2023: The John Okada Centennial Year

“Seattle Now & Then” at King Street Station

“Seattle Now & Then” is a long-time fixture of Seattle media created by historian and photographer Paul Dorpat in 1982. The column is now produced by historian and photographer Jean Sherrard, who published the feature below on our graphic novel in the Seattle Times, online on August 5, 2021, and in the Pacific NW Magazine of the print Times on August 8, 2021. Jean also posted a 12-minute audio interview with Frank Abe on YouTube, shared below.

Pacific Northwest Magazine spread in print Continue reading “Seattle Now & Then” at King Street Station