Category Archives: Tule Lake

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 a no-no boy.

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

First preview of our forthcoming anthology of camp literature

For three years, Floyd Cheung of Smith College and I have been gathering pieces and building the outline for a new anthology of camp literature commissioned by the publisher of Penguin Classics. On Sunday I presented a preview of our work on translations of Issei writing in camp in Japanese, part of what the late Yuji Ichioka called “our buried past.” This video screen is cued to the start of that discussion:

Continue reading First preview of our forthcoming anthology of camp literature

Demystifying Book Titles: Greg Robinson on the title for “No-No Boy”

No-No Boy 1957 coverAn unexpected blog post just arrived from our JOHN OKADA co-editor, Greg Robinson, on his theory of how Okada’s novel came to be published under the title of NO-NO BOY. Continue reading Demystifying Book Titles: Greg Robinson on the title for “No-No Boy”

YouTube preview of forthcoming graphic novel, “We Hereby Refuse”

“Three voices …  Three acts of defiance …  One mass injustice.” That’s one of the taglines for our forthcoming graphic novel which presents an original vision of America’s past with disturbing links to the American present. We had a fast-moving conversation about it on Black Friday, with a special look inside the 3-D modeling by  one of our two artists, Ross Ishikawa, to recreate key scenes based on  historical reality.

Here’s the one-hour JAMP YouTube channel event moderated by Erin Aoyama,  to get you ready for publication on February 9, 2021.

Continue reading YouTube preview of forthcoming graphic novel, “We Hereby Refuse”

In Memoriam: Hiroshi Kashiwagi — poet, playwright, no-no, and renunciant

Hiroshi with Frank AbeHiroshi Kashiwagi once confided that when he was young he felt his real calling was as an actor. He had the soul of a poet, modest and soft-spoken, until he got on stage. Then he could command a voice that was measured and determined, almost Shakespearean in tone. He held a strong sense of right and wrong, and pushed himself to write and to study public speaking in order to be heard. Continue reading In Memoriam: Hiroshi Kashiwagi — poet, playwright, no-no, and renunciant

“NO-NO BOY” and “JOHN OKADA” in NY Times and American Book Awards

You’d never expect John Okada and the entire literature of Japanese American incarceration to be featured in the Style magazine of the New York Times … but thanks to the passionate interest of Thessaly La Force, features director for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, her deeply felt essay is now online. It will appear in print in the Sunday Times edition on November 17th.T: The New York Times Style Magazine

Many thanks to Thessaly for reaching out to Shawn Wong and myself to learn more about this history, and the life and work of John Okada in particular. The literature of Japanese American incarceration is a field that JOHN OKADA co-editor Floyd Cheung and I are researching for a new anthology scheduled for 2021.

Floyd was not present, but Greg Robinson and I were, when our volume on John Okada was honored Friday with an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

American Book Award recipients onstage

Here are my prepared remarks for the acceptance: Continue reading “NO-NO BOY” and “JOHN OKADA” in NY Times and American Book Awards

Gag order lifted on lawsuit to stop the fence at Tule Lake

Little news emerged in the past year from the effort to stop the fence at Tule Lake — a three-mile long airport fence that would block access to the “hallowed ground” of America’s worst concentration camp.

Now we have some insight into why: according to a series of tweets from the Tule Lake Committee, the federal judge overseeing the case has lifted a gag order on the case, and the committee is raising funds for what could be the last leg of this long legal journey. We’ve kicked in, you can too. Here’s the thread unroll from @SaveTuleLake:
Continue reading Gag order lifted on lawsuit to stop the fence at Tule Lake

“Okada” and “Conscience” at the 2019 AAAS conference

AAAS Okada panelAt the Association for Asian American Studies conference in Madison, Wisconsin, our new volume on John Okada was given an academic analysis in a panel titled “John Okada’s Unknown Works: Reassessing the (Un)governability of Japanese Americans in Mid-century America.”

We missed Vince Schleitwiler’s presence  on the panel, but moderator Floyd Cheung of Smith College did a great job presenting Vince’s paper on Okada’s satirical essays, “A Larger Capacity for Normalcy: Apparitions of the Non-Alien in Midcentury Empire” (download a PDF, also revised and published online as “The Bright Future  and Long Shadow of John Okada’s No-No Boy).

John Streamas of Washington State University impressed with his own paper, “Street Lit: John Okada Ventures into the Proletarian” (download a PDF), a close reading of the Okada short story, “What Can I Do?”

And in the notes for his own presentation, “I Must Be Strong’: Awareness and Resistance in John Okada’s December 7th Poem” (download a PDF) Floyd Cheung investigates Okada’s prescience about dominant American racism and the need to self-govern Japanese American identity.

AAAS book signingAt the New Books Reception it was great to get the gang back together with the physical book available to share. Thanks to our editors at the University of Washington Press, Larin McLaughlin and Mike Baccam, for helping bring our book to life.

AAAS film panelThanks to Greg Robinson for organizing a panel revisiting the legacy of Conscience and the Constitution and Rabbit in the Moon on their 20th anniversary. Great to see Emiko and Chizu Omori again and to meet discussants Elena Creef, Chris Suh, Robert Hayashi, and Jonathan van Harmelen.

AAAS Izumi presentationFinally, Professor Masumi Izumi of Doshisa University in Kyoto presented her translation of the Tule Lake Stockade Diary of Tatsuo Inouye. It’s a rare insight into the thoughts of the Issei and Kibei Nisei held in the prison within a prison camp for standing up for better living conditions for their families and community. It was a crucial guide in assuring the accuracy of our forthcoming graphic novel on camp resistance, and will likely have a place in our anthology of camp literature, which is also forthcoming. #AAAS2019

Lawsuit filed to block transfer of Tule Lake Segregation Center land

UPDATE: On August 27, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied, without prejudice, the Tule Lake Committee’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).  The order allows the Tule Lake Committee to file a renewed motion for
a TRO, which the Tule Lake Committee is preparing to file, and directs additional support on particular issues, according to a TLC news release, which added:

Continue reading Lawsuit filed to block transfer of Tule Lake Segregation Center land

“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