Ichiro Yamada, a twenty-five-year-old, second-generation (“Nisei”) Japanese American. During World War II, he spent two years in an internment camp for Japanese Americans and two more years in federal prison because he chose to be a “no-no boy,” refusing to serve in the armed forces and to swear allegiance to the United States. He refused because he was angry at the U.S. government for forcing all Japanese aliens and Japanese American citizens into the camps. Throughout the novel, he struggles with his guilt about his decision not to fight in the war and with his feelings of conflict about his ethnic identity. In the end, he decides that he is an American and that both he and his country made mistakes; he looks to the future with cautious optimism.
Kenji Kanno, Ichiro’s friend and supporter. Although he shared Ichiro’s anger about racial injustice toward Japanese Americans and other ethnic minorities, Kenji joined the Army when war broke out. Like many other Japanese American soldiers, he fought bravely against the Germans; he lost a leg in battle, and the wound eventually kills him. He believed that the “melting pot” was a myth.
Mrs. Yamada, Ichiro’s mother. An immigrant (or “Issei”) Japanese, she has lived in the United States for thirty-five years, yet she considers herself Japanese rather than American, and she speaks...
(The entire section is 582 words.)