Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Seattle. Pacific Northwest city in Washington State that is hometown to Ichiro Yamada. Described realistically and with a keen eye for detail, Seattle’s Japan town struggles to come back to life after most of its residents return from internment camps after World War II. Rising above the harbor, with Jackson Street as its central thoroughfare, this district lies between the city’s Fifth and Twelfth Avenues, and borders Chinatown.

Through the eyes of Ichiro, readers learn of the changes that political upheavals bring to his old neighborhood. Before the eviction and internment of its Japanese and Japanese American residents in 1942, the neighborhood was home to a community that harbored strong ties to the land and culture of their ancestors: Japan. After the war, the returning residents struggle with the influx of African Americans, and the effects of a pleasure-seeking, relatively affluent postwar society that turns clothing stores into pool parlors. There, young Japanese American men who have fought in the U.S. Army participate in the raucous nightlife, feeling they have earned their place in American society. They despise those who—like Ichiro—did not fight. Yet Ichiro remains skeptical whether this place will really accept these men.

Ozaki’s grocery store

Ozaki’s grocery store. Seattle store run by Ichiro’s parents. A familiar feature of prewar Japan town, the operation is a cramped and marginal enterprise. Separated from the small shop by a curtain, the family’s living quarters are in the back. Four people share a kitchen, a bathroom, and one bedroom. With its typical bell to alert the family to each entering customer, the grocery is a place indicative of the fate of so many Japanese immigrants.

Instead of striking it rich quickly and returning to Japan as they had hoped to do when they came to America, Ichiro’s parents find themselves living in a place they still consider alien territory after thirty-five years. With frugality...

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No-No Boy Historical Context

Internment of Japanese Americans
After the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S....

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No-No Boy Setting

The setting of Okada's novel is post-World War II Seattle, immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Ichiro returns to his family, who...

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No-No Boy Literary Style

The novel gives a realistic picture of the Japanese immigrant area of Seattle, which includes Jackson Street,...

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No-No Boy Literary Qualities

Okada uses Ichiro's personal journey to accept his "Americanness" as an allegory for the overall integration of Japanese Americans (and...

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No-No Boy Social Sensitivity

No-No Boy forces readers to examine the issue of racial inequality. The racial tensions experienced between Okada's Japanese and...

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No-No Boy Compare and Contrast

  • 1940s: In 1945, the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat team is awarded 18,143 Medals of Valor and 9,486...

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No-No Boy Topics for Discussion

1. To what extent do you believe Mrs. Yamada was responsible for Ichiro's confused sense of identity?

2. Put yourself in the...

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No-No Boy Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Compare the racial discrimination experienced by Japanese Americans versus the discrimination experienced by African Americans.


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No-No Boy Topics for Further Study

Conduct some interviews with some first- and second-generation immigrants from any country, either from your school or the local community,...

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No-No Boy Related Titles / Adaptations

Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian-American Writers is a collection that includes works of fiction by Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino...

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No-No Boy What Do I Read Next?

Joy Kogawa’s Obasan (1981), which has won many awards, examines the effects of internment and forced relocation on Japanese...

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No-No Boy For Further Reference

Ling, Jinqi. "Race, Power, and Cultural Politics in John Okada's No-No Boy." American Literature 67 (June 1995): 359-381. Ling...

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No-No Boy Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Kim, Elaine H. Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982. An excellent study of Asian American literature, which contains a sound analysis of No-No Boy that emphasizes the disintegrating influence of racism on the Japanese American community and psyche.

McDonald, Dorothy Ritsuko. “After Imprisonment: Ichiro’s Search for Redemption in No-No Boy.” Melus 6, no. 3 (Fall, 1979): 19-26. Traces Ichiro’s psychological journey from guilt and alienation to peace and self-acceptance.

Sato, Gayle K. Fujita....

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No-No Boy Bibliography and Further Reading

Gribben, Bryn, “The Mother That Won’t Reflect Back: Situating Psychoanalysis and the Japanese Mother in...

(The entire section is 305 words.)