No-No Boy

A twenty-seven-year-old Japanese-American woman who lives by herself on a farm outside of Seattle. Emi and Kenji are close friends, and Kenji introduces Emi to Ichiro, with whom she begins an affair. Emi’s husband Ralph served in the United States military but, ashamed that his brother repatriated to Japan, refuses to return home. Emi is left sad and lonely, but is receptive to the love and kindness of Kenji, and, eventually, Ichiro.

Emi Quotes in No-No Boy

The No-No Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Emi or refer to Emi. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Washington Press edition of No-No Boy published in 1976.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“…We’re American and …we’re Japanese and sometimes the two don’t mix. It’s all right to be German and American or Italian and American or Russian and American but, as things turned out, it wasn’t all right to be Japanese and American. You had to be one or the other.”

Related Characters: Emi (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Kenji Kanno
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other No-No Boy quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

“Mike was born in California and went to college there. He knocked around for a while and was doing graduate work in Louisiana when the war, the first world war, started. He’d left California because he didn’t like the way the white people treated the Japanese and he was happy in Louisiana because they treated him like a white man there. So, when the war came, he wanted to get into it and did. He spent a year in France, came back, joined the VFW, returned to California, and got into the produce business. He did well, got married, and had two children. Then the second war started. When talk about the evacuation started, he wouldn’t believe it. He was an American and a veteran of the first war. He thought there might be justification in interning some of the outspokenly pro-Japanese aliens, but he scoffed at the idea of the government doing such a thing to him. When it became apparent that the government proposed to do just that, he burst into a fury of anger and bitterness and swore that if they treated him like a Japanese, he would act like one. Well, you know what happened and he stuck to his words. Along with the other rabidly pro-Japanese, he ended up at the Tule Lake Center, and became a leader in the troublemaking, the strikes and the riots. His wife and children remained in this country, but he elected to go to Japan, a country he didn’t know or love, and I’m sure he’s extremely unhappy.”

“I can’t say I blame him.”

“I’m sure he wishes he were back here.”

[Ichiro] patted her back awkwardly, trying to think of what to say to soothe her.

“Ralph won’t come back because of Mike. He’s ashamed,” she whimpered. “How am I to tell him that it makes no difference what Mike has done? Why is it that Ralph feels he must punish himself for Mike’s mistake? Why?”

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Emi (speaker), Ralph, Mike, Jun
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 9 Quotes

He was enjoying it and he felt that Emi was too. This is the way it ought to be, he thought to himself, to be able to dance with a girl you like and really get a kick out of it because everything is on an even keel and one’s worries are only the usual ones of unpaid bills and sickness in the family and being late to work too often. Why can’t it be that way for me? Nobody’s looking twice at us… Everything’s the same, just as it used to be. No bad feelings except for those that have always existed and probably always will. It’s a matter of attitude. Mine needs changing. I’ve got to love the world the way I used to. I’ve got to love it and the people so I’ll feel good, and feeling good will make life worth while. There’s no point in crying about what’s done. There’s a place for me and Emi and Freddie here on the dance floor and out there in the hustle of things if we’ll let it be that way. I’ve been fighting it and hating it and letting my bitterness against myself and Ma and Pa and even Taro throw the whole universe out of perspective. I want only to go on living and be happy. I’ve only to let myself do so.

Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 11 Quotes

Ichiro put a hand on Bull’s shoulder, sharing the empty sorrow in the hulking body, feeling the terrible loneliness of the distressed wails, and saying nothing. He gave the shoulder a tender squeeze, patted the head once tenderly, and began to walk slowly down the alley away from the brightness of the club and the morbidity of the crowd. He wanted to think about Ken and Freddie and Mr. Carrick and the man who had bought the drinks for him and Emi, about the Negro who stood up for Gary, and about Bull, who was an infant crying in the darkness. A glimmer of hope—was that it? It was there, someplace. He couldn’t see it to put it into words, but the feeling was pretty strong.

He walked along, thinking, searching, thinking and probing, and, in the darkness of the alley of the community that was a tiny bit of America, he chased that faint and elusive insinuation of promise as it continued to take shape in mind and in heart.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Kenji Kanno, Freddie Akimoto, Gary, Emi, Mr. Carrick, Bull
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire No-No Boy LitChart as a printable PDF.
No no boy.pdf.medium

Emi Character Timeline in No-No Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Emi appears in No-No Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...Kenji arrives at the farmhouse he leaves him in the car, going inside to greet Emi. They talk about her family. Her father is in Japan and unhappy. Her husband Ralph,... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Kenji advises Emi to divorce Ralph, but she says it’s none of his business. He apologizes, and she... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro and Emi sit down on the sofa and talk to Kenji. Ichiro tells Emi he was in... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...night. He claims the couch, but tells Ichiro he will sleep in the bedroom with Emi. Ichiro is confused and appalled, but Kenji insists that Emi likes him, and “needs” him,... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro joins Emi in bed. At first he lays stiffly, but then she takes his hand and they... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Emi and Ichiro continue talk about their parents’ sicknesses. Ichiro feels that he has ruined his... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro wakes up in the morning to find Emi gone. He searches for her outside, where she is weeding in a field. Ichiro sees... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Emi explains that just because Ichiro feels hopeless, doesn’t mean there is no hope. Ichiro dismisses... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro isn’t fully convinced by Emi’s argument. She tries one last time. She asks him to imagine how full of patriotism... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Emi tells Ichiro a story about Ralph’s brother, Mike. He was born in California, where he... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Emi and Ichiro reenter the house. Kenji has woken up and started preparing breakfast. Emi takes... (full context)
Chapter 7
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...tells Ichiro that he’s going to write to Ralph, and tell him that Ichiro and Emi are hitting it off. Kenji tells Ichiro to tell Emi he’s been thinking about her—and... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Ichiro takes seven hours to drive back to Seattle, where he first visits Emi. She is working in the field, and seeing the Oldsmobile she assumes Kenji has returned.... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro tells Emi about Mr. Carrick’s job offer. Emi notes that Mr. Carrick “sounds like the kind of... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Emi tells Ichiro that her neighbor, Mr. Maeno, would give Ichiro work. He thanks her but... (full context)
Chapter 8
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro returns to Seattle. He believes he will never see Kenji or Emi ever again. He misses them and Mr. Carrick already, three people who had been kind... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro hears a knock at the door. Emi has come to visit and give her condolences for Mrs. Yamada’s passing. Ichiro invites her... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Before Emi can leave, Ichiro changes his mind and decides to join Emi, and the two of... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
After dancing for a while, Emi and Ichiro sit down. They don’t speak, but smile at each other. A middle-aged man... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...like he might be able to have a happy future, thanks to the help of Emi, Mr. Carrick, Kenji, and even his parents, Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada. Ichiro asks his... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro thinks about Kenji, Freddie, Mr. Carrick, Emi, and Birdie. In the crowd drawn out of the nightclub by the car crash Ichiro... (full context)