At a Glance

Ichiro Yamada is a Japanese American relocated to an internment camp during World War II. He earns the label "no-no boy" when he answers "no" to the two most critical questions on the allegiance: no, he won't join the American armed forces and, no, he won't pledge loyalty to the United States.

  • Upon his release from the internment camp, Ichiro moves back to Seattle, where he faces considerable obstacles. His brother and many other Japanese Americans look down on him for being a "no-no boy," and Ichiro struggles to reconcile his Japanese and American heritage.
  • One of Ichiro's close friends, Kenji, joins the American military during the war. He loses his leg, and doctors give him two years to live. He and Ichiro joke about switching places.
  • Kenji introduces Ichiro to Emi, whose brother and father repatriated to Japan. Emi's husband Mike left her out of shame, and she and Ichiro become each other's emotional support. In the end, Ichiro begins to wonder if he isn't truly American.


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

No-No Boy depicts a second generation Japanese American’s struggle to balance his loyalty to the Japanese culture, to his parents, and to his country, the United States. Ichiro Yamada is interned during World War II. He is put in jail for answering no to the two critical questions on the allegiance questionnaire. His two negative answers are his refusal to serve in the American armed forces and his refusal to forswear allegiance to Japan and pledge loyalty to the United States. After he is released from prison, Ichiro moves back to Seattle and is caught between two seemingly irreconcilable worlds. On one side, there are his parents, who are very proud of being Japanese. On the other side, there is the United States, a country to which he still feels he belongs.

During his search for his identity, Ichiro meets several people who help shape his perspective on himself and on his relationship with America. One of his close friends, Kenji, joins the military during the war. He loses a leg and has only two years to live. What Kenji physically goes through, Ichiro experiences emotionally. Being a no-no boy, Ichiro is looked down upon by his brother and other Japanese Americans who believe he has betrayed the country. During one of their conversations, Kenji and Ichiro jokingly discuss whether they want to trade places. The fact that both of them are willing to do it comments on the kind of social environment they have to deal with and on the choices...

(The entire section is 415 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Ichiro Yamada, a twenty-five-year-old Japanese American, is a “no-no boy” during World War II: That is, he refuses to serve in the U.S. armed forces if drafted and to swear unqualified allegiance to the United States. As a result, he spends two years in federal prison. After being released from prison, he returns home to Seattle to live with his mother and father. Like all Japanese immigrants and Japanese American citizens, the Yamadas had been forced to spend the war years in American internment camps; only those who were drafted into or joined the armed services were spared the relocation camps. Ichiro’s refusal to fight for his country was his protest against this unjust treatment of Japanese Americans. His mother, who speaks very little English and who considers herself Japanese, even though she has lived in the United States for thirty-five years, is proud of Ichiro for going to prison. However, Taro, Ichiro’s younger brother, detests him for not serving. Ichiro himself has conflicted feelings about his decision.

After Ichiro returns to Seattle, he meets a former friend, Eto, who had fought in the war. When he learns that Ichiro was a no-no boy, Eto spits on him. Ichiro visits the University of Washington, where he had been an engineering student before the war. He wants to return to school, but he feels that he has forfeited the right to do so. Ichiro then meets Kenji Kanno, his good friend from his university days. Though he shares Ichiro’s anger about the internment camps, Kenji had chosen to fight in the war. He is a hero and had lost a leg in battle; his wound has not completely healed and his health is deteriorating. Ichiro envies Kenji and wishes he could change places with him. Kenji respects Ichiro for having followed his conscience and gone to prison.

Bull, a Japanese American friend of Kenji, insults Ichiro; later, two of Taro’s friends assault Ichiro. Kenji takes Ichiro to meet his...

(The entire section is 791 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

No-No Boy details the plight of Japanese-American citizens who lived the nightmare of internment in prison camps following the bombing...

(The entire section is 172 words.)