Reviews

No-No Boy, by John Okada

shays's review against another edition

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3.0

Okada is prone to run-on sentences breathless with rage and despair, and his narration shifts from “he” to “one” to “I” with little demarcation. However, the emotion and insight Okada brings to the Japanese interment is unparalleled, even if his prose is not. With the distance of time, the social and historical significance of No-No Boy are free to rise above the sometimes heavy-handed writing of an emerging novelist. read more

taikutsunahana's review against another edition

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dark emotional sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

msand3's review against another edition

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3.0

3.5 stars. An important novel that stands as the herald of Asian American literature in the twentieth century, and also one that is relevant today due to the immoral and legally dubious immigrant camps currently scattered throughout the United States. Although not discussed in the Penguin introduction, I imagine it also resonated with those of the Vietnam era when it was first re-published and “re-discovered” in the 1970s. Well worth a read for those reasons alone.

mayab1226's review

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challenging dark emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25

paiges_books's review against another edition

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4.0

No-No Boy is John Okada's only work and is considered the first Japanese American novel - an honor that he never lived to see.

I've seen it constantly described as "a book ahead of its time" - and it continues to be so. (trigger warning: there is an abundance of racial slurs in this book and racism against and between minority groups.)

Ichiro is a "no-no boy" - a Japanese nisei who refused to renounce his Japanese identity and serve in the U.S. army in WWII. After 2 years in prison, he returns home to find that not only is he hated by white Americans for being Japanese, but also by Japanese Americans who see him as a traitor and an enemy for refusing absolute assimilation and submission.

Ichiro is driven to despair and hopelessness, unsure he can exist as a Japanese man, an American, and as a no-no boy. He is further enraged by his parents - a mother he has never really known that is convinced Japan actually won the war, and a father too weak willed to argue against her insanity.

This book is about identity, patriotism, hatred, belonging, and forgetting. It is a book that was almost lost forever. It unabashedly challenges the model minority myth. It explores children of immigrants who feel they will never really know their parents, or a place that they come from but have never lived. It shows disgust for the hypocrisy and wickedness of a society that associates whiteness and submission with Americaness, especially at a time when the only way to be "American" as a Japanese person was to abandon yourself entirely.

What makes this novel so powerful is the context that surrounds it and the tragedy of its poor reception in 1957. It's complex, controversial, and aggressive. It's humbling to think of how these words, against all odds, against attempts to erase the past, have made it to my hands. This is why I love literature.

I highly reccomend any American read this book. These are the voices that continue reach out to us across time and space, asking us to remember: Who are you? Will trampling others really bring you higher, or crush us all faster beneath our oppressors?

aleatorizzy's review against another edition

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challenging emotional reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

I had to read this book for my Asian American fiction class and it's been one of the few times in recent memory where I read slowly because the material was just so emotionally laborious to read. The raw and unflinching grief that is central to this book is made even more effective by the outside knowledge that its author never got to see the recognition it got and to have that wide affirmation of the experiences penned. No-No Boy is a post-world war two novel that takes place over a short amount of time, perhaps a few weeks at most, centered on the protagonist Ichiro's return to American society after being in prison for refusing the draft. However, in this short span of time and in the people he reconnects with or meets, Ichiro discovers and re-discovers that there is no American society for him, perhaps there never was, perhaps there never can be. I think one of the standout quotes that encapsulates the overall feeling of the book is when Ichiro thinks: "But it is not enough to be American only in the eyes of the law and it is not enough to be only half American and know that it is an empty half. I am not your son and I am not Japanese and I am not American." There is no name, no place, no way Ichiro can ever find peace with every part of himself together. This book takes a tragic look at the alienation of post-war Japanese-Americans, coupled with a fixation on American masculinity, motherhood, and madness. There's a reason this is the first full novel we read for class, and I'd totally mark it as one of my essential reads. It is raw and difficult and shattering in the complete brokenness and despair it highlights in Ichiro's thoughts and the characters around him, and it's done beautifully.  

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tlaynejones's review against another edition

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challenging emotional hopeful informative mysterious reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated

4.5


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ekatayama's review against another edition

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emotional slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

ari767's review against another edition

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  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

soapyme's review against another edition

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4.0

Four and a half stars.