Pacific Stars and Stripes

Original review of the 1957 publication of No-No Boy

Pacific Stars and Stripes
June 1, 1957

Books of the Week: NO-NO BOY by John Okada, Charles E. Tuttle

John Okada’s first novel peers with microscopic intensity into the life of a Japanese-American who chose to say “No” when asked if he would accept the draft into the U.S. Armed Services after the outbreak of World War II, and possibly have to fight against his once-removed Japanese relatives.

Okada’s protagonist, Ichiro, returns to Seattle after serving two years in a federal prison for his negative reply to the draft board.

Back home he faces the enmity of his fellow Nisei who had chosen to fight for their adopted country. Ichiro finds his mother still caught up in the delusion that Japan has won the war, still believing that soon a vessel will arrive from victorious Japan to carry home all those who have remained loyal to the Imperial Way. Ichiro has acted as he has because of his overwhelming love for his deluded mother. But he realizes now that he has acted against the love he has developed for America and the freedom implicit in the American way of life.

He endures a time of torment until, in a brutal climax, he is able to equate the conflicting forces that surround him and prepare for a period of adjustment. A powerful novel, “No-No Boy” presents the entire subject of racial prejudice in America in a dramatic manner.

— Richard H. Larah

The history and literature of Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration