In 1956, John Okada wrote the first Japanese-American novel, No-No Boy, a story about a Nisei draft-resister who returns home to Seattle after years in prison. It should have been a sensation: American literature had seen nothing like it before. But the book went out of print, Okada never published again, and the writer died in obscurity in 1971. That would have been the end of the story, were it not for a band of Asian-American writers in 1970s California who stumbled upon the landmark novel in a used bookshop. Frank Abe, one of the co-editors of a new book about Okada—and a friend to the “CARP boys” who discovered him—joins us to talk about the era in which No-No Boy was written and what the novel can teach us about our own moment in history. This episode originally aired in 2018.
Go beyond the episode:
- John Okada: The Life and Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy
- No-No Boy by John Okada
- Watch Frank Abe’s film about the Japanese-American draft resisters, Conscience and the Constitution
- Read Julian Saporiti’s essay in our Summer 2023 issue, “Last Dance”
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
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