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NoNo Boy by John Okada

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This is where one fully glimpses at the explanation of the phrase ‘No-No Boy’ as one that depicts the numerous complications in terms of acceptance and a sticky situation in terms of how the Japanese American were relocated during the second world war. There are lessons for Ichiro everywhere he goes and from everyone he meets which contribute to the dilemma he faces regarding his self identity but also depict his American multicultural experience. Not all of these experiences are helpful to him, however, especially at the beginning of the novel, when everything that happens seems to fuel his self-doubt and his fear that he has forever lost his chance to be fully accepted as an American. It is easy to understand his predicament. Along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, the U.S. government put him in a camp, as he tells Mr. Carrick, to prove to us that we weren’t American enough to be trusted and then imprisoned him for refusing to swear allegiance to the nation of his birth, so he has every reason to fear white America will never accept him, whatever he does to redeem himself. Being American is a terribly incomplete thing if one’s face is not white and one’s parents are Japanese of the country Japan which attacked America, he says. He is unfortunate in that so soon after his return to Seattle he encounters second-generation Japanese Americans such as Eto and Bull, who identify strongly with being American and have no time for a man who in their eyes chose to ally himself with the enemy. Hence highlight his self conscious nature pertaining to being Japanese and adding on to his basic foundation of an identity already in crises. But it is interesting to note that these men are, like Ichiro, Japanese Americans. The hostility Ichiro anticipates from white Americans simply never materializes showing a discrepancy between what he expects to find, given his own fear and self-hatred, and what he does find, although it is a long time before he is able to fully recognize this. In his heart he knows all along that his future has not been destroyed and that the United States, even for him, is still a land of opportunity. This can be seen by his thoughts when he walks down the street after his first meeting with Freddie Akimoto, another no-no boy, who acts as a foil for Ichiro. But as soon as he conceives a vision of hope and a second chance, he denies it.