No-No Boy

Ichiro Yamada Character Analysis

The protagonist of the novel, Ichiro is a twenty-five-year-old “no-no boy,” who has just returned to Seattle for the first time in four years. He has spent two years in an internment camp, and two years in prison for refusing the draft. Ichiro returns home to live with his parents, Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada, and his brother Taro, with whom he has a fraught relationship. He blames his mother, especially, for raising him as a Japanese man and not an American one, which prevented him from fully assimilating into U.S. culture, and, he believes, caused him to reject the draft. Ichiro is constantly conflicted. He resents his parents, but also feels guilty for resenting them because their lives are also difficult. He wants to lead a normal life, but feels as though he has ruined his future and does not deserve any opportunities. He wants to believe in an America in which there is no prejudice and discrimination, but after his treatment by the government and by the nation’s citizens he can barely believe this is possible. Over the course of the novel Ichiro reconnects with old friends and considers different potential futures. In the end, he decides not to make any rash decisions. Instead, he will stay in Seattle with his father, and work to get his life back to where it was before the war. His closest friends are Freddie and Kenji, and he begins a romance with Emi.

Ichiro Yamada Quotes in No-No Boy

The No-No Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Ichiro Yamada or refer to Ichiro Yamada. 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 1  Quotes

Walking down the street that autumn morning with a small, black suitcase, he felt like an intruder in a world to which he had no claim. It was just enough that he should feel this way, for, of his own free will, he had stood before the judge and said that he would not go in the army. At the time there was no other choice for him. That was when he was twenty-three, a man of twenty-three. Now, two years older, he was even more of a man.

Christ, he thought to himself, just a goddamn kid is all I was. Didn’t know enough to wipe my own nose. What the hell have I done? What am I doing back here? Best thing I can do would be to kill some son of a bitch and head back to prison.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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The round face wasn’t smiling any more. It was thoughtful. The eyes confronted Ichiro with indecision which changed slowly to enlightenment and then to suspicion. He remembered. He knew.

The friendliness was gone as he said: “No-no boy, huh?”

Ichiro wanted to say yes. He wanted to return the look of despising hatred and say simply yes, but it was too much to say. The walls had closed in and were crushing all the unspoken words back down into his stomach. He shook his head once, not wanting to evade the yes but finding it impossible to meet them…

“Rotten bastard. Shit on you.” Eto coughed up a mouthful of sputum and rolled his words around it: “Rotten, no-good bastard.”

Surprisingly, Ichiro felt relieved. Eto’s anger seemed to serve as a release to his own naked tensions. As he stooped to lift the suitcase a wet wad splattered over his hand and dripped onto the black leather. The legs of his accuser were in front of him. God in a pair of green fatigues, U.S. Army style. They were the legs of the jury that had passed sentence on him. Beseech me, they seemed to say, throw your arms about me and bury your head between my knees and seek pardon for your great sin.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Eto Minato (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
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The war had wrought violent changes upon the people, and the people, in turn, working hard and living hard and earning a lot of money and spending it on whatever was available, had distorted the profile of Jackson Street. The street had about it the air of a carnival without quite succeeding at becoming one. A shooting gallery stood where once had been a clothing store; fish and chips had replaced a jewelry shop; and a bunch of Negroes were horsing around raucously in front of a pool parlor…

He walked past the pool parlor, picking his way gingerly among the Negroes, of whom there had been only a few at one time and of whom there seemed to be nothing but now…

“Jap!” …

“Go back to Tokyo, boy.” Persecution in the drawl of the persecuted…

Friggin’ niggers, he uttered savagely to himself and, from the same place deep down inside where tolerance for the Negroes and the Jews and the Mexicans and the Chinese and the too short and the too fat and too ugly abided because he was Japanese and knew what it was like better than did those who were white and average and middle class and good Democrats or liberal Republicans, the hate which was unrelenting and terrifying seethed up.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I am proud that you are back,” she said. “I am proud to call you my son.”

It was her way of saying that she had made him what he was and that the thing in him which made him say no to the judge and go to prison for two years was the growth of a seed planted by the mother tree and that she was the mother who had put this thing in her son and that everything that had been done and said was exactly as it should have been and that that was what made him her son because no other would have made her feel the pride that was in her breast.

He looked at his mother and swallowed with difficulty the bitterness that threatened to destroy the last fragment of understanding for the woman who was his mother and still a stranger because, in truth, he could not know what it was to be a Japanese who breathed the air of America and yet had never lifted a foot from the land that was Japan.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mrs. Yamada (speaker)
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Why don’t you do something about it?”

“I tell [Taro]. Mama tells him. Makes no difference. It is the war that has made them that way. All the people say the same thing. The war and the camp life. Made them wild like cats and dogs. It is hard to understand.”

“Sure,” he said, but he told himself that he understood, that the reason why Taro was not a son and not a brother was because he was young and American and alien to his parents, who had lived in America for thirty-five years without becoming less Japanese and could speak only a few broken words of English and write it not at all, and because Taro hated the thing in his elder brother which had prevented him from thinking for himself. And in this hate for that thing, he hated his brother and also his parents because they had created the thing in their eyes and hands and minds which had seen and felt and thought as Japanese for thirty-five years in an America which they rejected as thoroughly as if they had never been a day away from Japan.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mr. Yamada (speaker), Mrs. Yamada, Taro Yamada
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Oh, yes, the picture of Japan.” She snickered. “He is such a serious boy. He showed me all the pictures he had taken in Japan. He had many of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and I told him that he must be mistaken because Japan did not lose the war as he seems to believe and that he could not have been in Japan to take pictures because, if he was in Japan, he would not have been permitted to remain alive… I told him that what must really have happened was that the army only told him he was in Japan when he was someplace else, and that it was too bad he believed the propaganda. Then he got so mad his face went white… It is not enough that they must willingly take up arms against their uncles and cousins and even brothers and sisters, but they no longer have respect for the old ones. If I had a son and he had gone in the American army to fight Japan, I would have killed myself with shame.”

“They know not what they do and it is not their fault. It is the fault of the parents…” Ichiro’s mother looked at him with a look which said I am a Japanese and you are my son and have conducted yourself as a Japanese and I know no shame such as other parents do because their sons were not really their sons or they would not have fought against their own people.

Related Characters: Mrs. Yamada (speaker), Mr. Ashida (speaker), Ichiro Yamada
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
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The mother was crying now, without shame and alone in her grief that knew no end. And in her bottomless grief that made no distinction as to what was wrong and what was right and who was Japanese and who was not, there was no awareness of the other mother with a living son who had come to say to her you are with shame and grief because you were not Japanese and thereby killed your son but mine is big and strong and full of life because I did not weaken and would not let my son destroy himself uselessly and treacherously.

Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
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…he was thinking about the Kumasakas and his mother and kids like Bob who died brave deaths fighting for something which was bigger than Japan or America or the selfish bond that strapped a son to his mother. Bob, and a lot of others with no more to lose or gain then he, had not found it necessary to think about whether or not to go into the army. When the time came, they knew what was right for them and they went.

What happened to him and the others who faced the judge and said: You can’t make me go in the army because I’m not an American or you wouldn’t have plucked me and mine from a life that was good and real and meaningful and fenced me in the desert like they do the Jews in Germany…

And some said: You, Mr. Judge, who supposedly represent justice, was it a just thing to ruin a hundred thousand lives and homes and farms and businesses and dreams and hopes because the hundred thousand were a hundred thousand Japanese and you couldn’t have loyal Japanese when Japan is the country you’re fighting and, if so, how about the Germans and Italians that must be just as questionable as the Japanese or we wouldn’t be fighting Germany and Italy? Round them up. Take away their homes and cars and beer and spaghetti and throw them in a camp and what do you think they’ll say when you try to draft them into your army out of the country that is for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? …

And then another one got up and faced the judge and said meekly: I can’t go because my brother is in the Japanese army and if I go in your army and have to shoot at them because they’re shooting at me, how do I know that maybe I won’t kill my own brother? I’m a good American and I like it here but you can see that it wouldn’t do for me to be shooting at my own brother; even if he want back to Japan when I was two years old and I couldn’t know him if I saw him, it’s the feeling that counts, and what can a fellow do? Besides, my mom and dad said I shouldn’t and they ought to know.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mrs. Yamada, Bob Kumasaka
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3 Quotes

Time would ease the rupture which now separated him from the young Japanese who were Americans because they had fought for America and believed in it. And time would destroy the old Japanese who, living in America and being denied a place as citizens, nevertheless had become inextricably a part of the country which by its vastness and goodness and fairness and plentitude drew them into its fold, or else they would not have understood why it was that their sons, who looked as Japanese as they themselves, were not Japanese at all but Americans of the country America. In time, he thought, in time there will be a place for me. I will buy a home and love my family and I will walk down the street holding my son’s hand and people will stop and talk with us about the weather and the ball games and the elections. I will take my family to visit the family of Freddie, whom I have just left as I did because time has not yet done its work, and our families together will visit still another family whose father was two years in the army of America instead of two years in prison and it will not matter about the past, for time will have erased it from our memories and there will be only joy and sorrow and sickness, which is the way things should be.

And, as his heart mercifully stacked the blocks of hope into the pattern of an America which would someday hold an unquestioned place for him, his mind said no, it is not to be, and the castle tumbled and was swallowed up by the darkness of his soul, for time might cloud the memories of others but the trouble was inside of him and time would not soften that.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Freddie Akimoto
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

“If it were [possible], Ken, if it were and there was just half an inch to trade for my fifty years, would you then?”

Kenji thought about that for a long while. “When it comes to the last half an inch and it starts to hurt, I’ll sell the car and spend the rest of my life sitting here with a drink in my hand and feeling good.”

“That means no, of course.”

“That means no, yes.”

“Thanks for being honest.”

So they sat silently through the next drink, one already dead but still alive and contemplating the next fifty or sixty years more of dead aliveness, and the other, living and dying slowly. They were two extremes, the Japanese who was more American than most Americans because he had crept to the brink of death for America, and the other who was neither Japanese nor American because he had failed to recognize the gift of his birthright when recognition meant everything.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Kenji Kanno (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
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“…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:
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“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:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

“I came to America to become a rich man so that I could go back to the village in Japan and be somebody. I was greedy and ambitious and proud. I was not a good man or an intelligent one, but a young fool. And you have paid for it.”

“What kind of talk is that?” replied Kenji, genuinely grieved. “That’s not true at all.”

“I will go with you.”

“No.” He looked straight at his father.

In answer, the father merely nodded, acceding to his son’s wish because his son was a man who had gone to war to fight for the abundance and happiness that pervaded a Japanese household in America and that was a thing he himself could never fully comprehend except to know that it was very dear. He had long forgotten when it was that he had discarded the notion of a return to Japan but remembered only that it was the time when this country which he had no intention of loving had suddenly begun to become a part of him because it was a part of his children and he saw and felt in their speech and joys and sorrows and hopes that he was a part of them. And in the dying of the foolish dreams which he had brought to America, the richness of the life that was possible in this foreign country destroyed the longing for a past that really must not have been as precious as he imagined or else he would surely not have left it. Where else could a man, left alone with six small children, have found it possible to have had so much with so little?

Related Characters: Kenji Kanno (speaker), Mr. Kanno (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
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It had mattered. It was because he was Japanese that the son had to come to his Japanese father and simply state that he had decided to volunteer for the army instead of being able to wait until such time as the army called him. It was because he was Japanese and, at the same time, had to prove to the world that he was not Japanese that the turmoil was in his soul and urged him to enlist. There was confusion, but, underneath it, a conviction that he loved America and would fight and die for it because he did not wish to live anyplace else. And the father, also confused, understood what the son had not said and gave his consent. It was not a time for clear thinking because the sense of loyalty had become dispersed and the shaken faith of an American interned in an American concentration camp was indeed a flimsy thing. So, on this steadfast bit of conviction that remained, and knowing not what the future held, this son had gone to war to prove that he deserved to enjoy those rights which should rightfully have been his.

Related Characters: Mr. Kanno (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada, Kenji Kanno
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

…As he thought about Mr. Carrick and their conversation time and time again, its meaning for him evolved into a singularly comforting thought. There was someone who cared. Surely there were others too who understood the suffering of the small and the weak and, yes, even the seemingly treasonous, and offered a way back into the great compassionate stream of life that is America. Under the hard, tough cloak of the struggle for existence in which money and enormous white refrigerators and shining, massive, brutally-fast cars and fine, expensive clothing had ostensibly overwhelmed the qualities of men that were good and gentle and just, there still beat a heart of kindness and patience and forgiveness.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Kenji Kanno, Mr. Carrick
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
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Where is the place that they talk of and paint nice pictures of and describe in all the homey magazines? Where is that place with the clean, white cottages surrounding the new, red-brick church with the clean, white steeple, where the families all have two children, one boy and one girl, and a shiny new car in the garage and a dog and a cat and life is like living in the land of the happily-ever-after? Surely it must be around here someplace, someplace in America. Or is it just that it’s not for me? Maybe I dealt myself out, but what about that young kid on Burnside who was in the army and found it wasn’t enough so that he has to keep proving to everyone who comes in for a cup of coffee that he was fighting for his country like the button on his shirt says he did because the army didn’t do anything about his face to make him look more American? … Even Mr. Carrick. Why isn’t he in? Why is he on the outside squandering his goodness on outcasts like me? Maybe the answer is that there is no in. Maybe the whole damned country is pushing and shoving and screaming to get into someplace that doesn’t exist, because they don’t know that the outside could be the inside if only they would stop all this pushing and shoving and screaming, and they haven’t got enough sense to realize that.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mr. Carrick
Related Symbols: Discharge Pin
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Have a drink for me. Drink to wherever it is I’m headed, and don’t let there be any Japs or Chinks or Jews or Poles or Niggers or Frenchies, but only people. I think about that too. I think about that most of all. You know why?”
He shook his head and Kenji seemed to know he would even though he was still staring out the window. “He was up on the roof of the barn and I shot him, killed him. I see him rolling down the roof. I see him all the time now and that’s why I want this other place to have only people because if I’m still a Jap there and this guy’s still a German, I’ll have to shoot him again and I don’t want to have to do that. Then maybe there is no someplace else. Maybe dying is it. The finish. The end. Nothing. I’d like that too. Better an absolute nothing than half a meaning…”

Related Characters: Kenji Kanno (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Kanno
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

As he shouted, Ichiro listened and, it was as if he were hearing about a stranger as the man spoke of the girl baby born in the thirty-first year of the Meiji era to a peasant family, of her growing and playing and going to school and receiving honors for scholastic excellence and of her becoming a pretty young thing who forsook a teaching career to marry a bright, ambitious young man of the same village. And as the large man transported the young couple across the vast ocean to the fortune awaiting them in America, Ichiro no longer listened, for he was seeing the face of his dead mother jutting out of the casket, and he could not believe that she had ever been any of the things the man was saying about her.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

“It was good, the years I rotted in prison. I got the lead out of my ass and the talk out of my system. I died in prison. And when I came back to life, all that really mattered for me was to make a painting. I came home and said hello to the family and tried to talk to them, but there was nothing to talk about. I didn’t stay. I found a room next to the sky, a big, drafty attic atop a dilapidated mansion full of boarders who mind their own business. Old friends are now strangers. I’ve no one to talk to and no desire to talk, for I have nothing to say except what comes out of my paint tubes and brushes. During the day, I paint for my keep. At night, I paint for myself. The picture I want is inside of me. I’m groping for it and it gives me peace and satisfaction. For me, the cup is overflowing.”

He turned and the peace he spoke of was clearly written on his face: “What was unfortunate for you was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Gary (speaker), Freddie Akimoto
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
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A few days later Tommy, reluctant to lose one who had appeared such a promising recruit, tried to justify the incident. “The ways of the Lord are often mysterious,” he had said. “There are some things which we cannot hope to understand. You will feel better by next Sunday.”

“Save the holy crap for yourself,” he had replied. “Seems to me like you goddamned good Christians have the supply spread out pretty thin right now.”
And then Tommy had revealed himself for the poor, frightened, mistreated Japanese that he was. “Holy cow!” he had exclaimed in a frantic cry, “they like us. They treat us fine. We’re in no position to stick out our necks when we’ve got enough troubles of our own.”

“Good deal. You hang on to it, will you? Son of a bitch like you needs a good thing like that.”

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Tommy (speaker), Freddie Akimoto
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Ichiro Yamada Character Timeline in No-No Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Ichiro Yamada appears in No-No Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro arrives at the Seattle bus station. It is the first time he has been back... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Although he grew up in Seattle, Ichiro feels “like an intruder” there now. He regrets refusing to go into the army two... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
A young man in military fatigues crosses the street towards Ichiro. He recognizes him as Eto Minato. Ichiro tries to avoid him but Eto chases him... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro feels as though “the walls had closed in.” He sees Eto as representative of “the... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro walks towards Jackson Street, which houses Seattle’s Japantown. A group of black men harass him,... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro makes it to his new home—a grocery store his parents have purchased since leaving the... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada greets his son happily. Ichiro’s father speaks mostly in Japanese; Ichiro speaks mostly in English. This is common in mixed-generation... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada comes home. She tells Ichiro she is proud to call him her son. Ichiro understands that what she is really... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro feels bitterness towards Mrs. Yamada, even as he works to understand her. She is both... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Ichiro retreats to the bedroom and flings himself into bed, chain-smoking and thinking. He blames Mrs.... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada comes to fetch Ichiro for lunch. The family does not speak as they eat. Finally Ichiro’s mother breaks the... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada shows Ichiro a letter sent from Sao Paulo, ostensibly from the Japanese government, that claims it is... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada tells Ichiro they’ll discuss it later. She assures him that his doubts will disappear, because he is... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Ichiro continues his internal monologue. He asserts that he is not Mrs. Yamada’s son, and he... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Upset, Ichiro goes to sleep. The next morning, his younger brother shakes him awake. Taro is uninterested... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Taro, Ichiro, Mrs. Yamada, and Mr. Yamada eat in silence. Taro eats quickly and leaves. Ichiro’s father... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Ichiro understands that Taro is fully American, whereas his parents, even after thirty-five years in America,... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada takes Ichiro to see two family friends, the Ashida family and the Kumasaka family. These families are... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...photos are fake, or else taken somewhere other than Japan. Mrs. Yamada says that if Ichiro had both joined the American army to fight Japan and lost respect for his elders,... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...how many of their friends falsely believe that Japan lost the war. Unhappy and uncomfortable, Ichiro insists that they leave. (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
...an apartment above their dry-cleaning shop before the war, but have now purchased a house. Ichiro sees this as a rejection of Japan, and a decision to fully commit to living... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada sits on the couch and proudly declares that Ichiro “has suffered but I make no apologies for him or for myself. If he had... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Ichiro asks the Mr. Kumasaka and Mrs. Kumasaka where their son, Bob is. Mr. Kumasaka is... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Kumasaka cries as Jun recounts Bob’s death. Ichiro recognizes that in her “bottomless grief” she “made no distinction as to what was wrong... (full context)
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada gets up and leaves without saying goodbye. Ichiro apologizes to Mr. Kumasaka for his mother, calling her “crazy” and a “goddamed Jap!” Mr.... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
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Ichiro does not want to go home; instead, he walks and thinks. He considers his bond... (full context)
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Ichiro thinks back to when he stood before the judge with many other Japanese American men... (full context)
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Ichiro sees that for every man who could not fight for America, thousands were able to... (full context)
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Ichiro eventually makes it back to the grocery store. Mr. Yamada is drunk, which surprises Ichiro,... (full context)
Chapter 2 
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In the morning Ichiro wakes up, feeling as though he is still in prison. Although he his now technically... (full context)
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At breakfast, Mrs. Yamada tries to tell Ichiro that Bob Kumasaka died because of his mother—because “she did not conduct herself as a... (full context)
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Ichiro tells Mrs. Yamada that she’s crazy. She brushes off his insult. She’s been called crazy... (full context)
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Ichiro gets up to leave, and Mr. Yamada tries to stop him. Ichiro punches him in... (full context)
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Ichiro takes the bus to Freddie’s apartment. He knocks on the door but a woman (“2-A”)... (full context)
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...old friends either greet him quickly and rush off, or pretend not to know him. Ichiro tells Freddie how Eto spit on him, but feels he deserved it. Freddie tells Ichiro,... (full context)
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Ichiro decides to leave. Freddie invites him to play poker with him and other no-no boys.... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Ichiro walks down Jackson Street, away from Freddie. He wonders if he and the other no-no... (full context)
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Ichiro imagines a future in which “there will again be a place for me.” He’ll buy... (full context)
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Ichiro gets on a bus, which takes him towards the university where he used to study... (full context)
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Ichiro thinks that being American and fighting for America is complicated and “incomplete” “if one’s face... (full context)
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Ichiro gets off the bus at the university and goes to the office of a former... (full context)
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Mr. Brown encourages Ichiro to return to school, although it is too late to enroll this quarter. Although the... (full context)
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Ichiro eats lunch at a nearby diner. As he sits and eats, an old acquaintance of... (full context)
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Ichiro things that he would trade both legs to be in Kenji’s position. He feels that,... (full context)
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Ichiro asks Kenji about this leg. Initially it was amputated below the knee, but it continued... (full context)
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As horrible as Kenji’s situation is, Ichiro says he would still trade with his friend. This confession surprises the veteran. Ichiro explains... (full context)
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Kenji drops Ichiro off at home and the two make plans for later in the evening. At home,... (full context)
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Ichiro, Mr. Yamada, and Mrs. Yamada stand stunned in Taro’s absence. His mother lets out a... (full context)
Chapter 4
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That evening Ichiro and Kenji gamble in Chinatown for a while, before moving to a nearby bar. Ichiro... (full context)
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Kenji and Ichiro go to Club Oriental, a nightclub and bar. There they drink and talk. Kenji encourages... (full context)
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Kenji and Ichiro sit in silence for a while. Kenji, although Japanese, is “more American than most Americans,”... (full context)
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...He invites Kenji to come sit with him, but rescinds the invitation when he sees Ichiro, who he recognizes as a no-no boy. Kenji refuses to engage with Bull, who insults... (full context)
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Ichiro gets up to go. He thanks Kenji for being kind to him, and offers a... (full context)
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Taro convinces Ichiro to come talk outside. Kenji wants to come, but Ichiro tells him to hold back.... (full context)
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Ichiro gets up, and he and Kenji return to Kenji’s car. As they drive, Ichiro considers... (full context)
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Ichiro falls asleep, and when Kenji arrives at the farmhouse he leaves him in the car,... (full context)
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...his business. He apologizes, and she gets up to make coffee as a peace offering. Ichiro has woken up and now comes into the house. He notices a piano and sits... (full context)
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Ichiro and Emi sit down on the sofa and talk to Kenji. Ichiro tells Emi he... (full context)
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Kenji suggests staying the night. He claims the couch, but tells Ichiro he will sleep in the bedroom with Emi. Ichiro is confused and appalled, but Kenji... (full context)
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Ichiro joins Emi in bed. At first he lays stiffly, but then she takes his hand... (full context)
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Emi and Ichiro continue talk about their parents’ sicknesses. Ichiro feels that he has ruined his life. He... (full context)
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Ichiro wakes up in the morning to find Emi gone. He searches for her outside, where... (full context)
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Emi explains that just because Ichiro feels hopeless, doesn’t mean there is no hope. Ichiro dismisses her, and she responds angrily.... (full context)
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Ichiro isn’t fully convinced by Emi’s argument. She tries one last time. She asks him to... (full context)
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Emi tells Ichiro a story about Ralph’s brother, Mike. He was born in California, where he went to... (full context)
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Emi and Ichiro reenter the house. Kenji has woken up and started preparing breakfast. Emi takes over. As... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Kenji drops Ichiro at home. Mrs. Yamada wonders where Ichiro has been, and he explains that he was... (full context)
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Ichiro feels his anger fade, and instead he feels pity for Mrs. Yamada, whose dedication to... (full context)
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Ichiro wishes he could talk to Mrs. Yamada, who is also a stranger. He wonders what... (full context)
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Mr. Yamada lewdly asks Ichiro what he was up to. Ichiro jokes that he had fun, but “not enough to... (full context)
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Ichiro delivers the newest letter to Mr. Yamada. It’s from Mrs. Yamada’s sister. Mr. Yamada calls... (full context)
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...must have been tortured to reveal the truth. She takes the letter to the bedroom. Ichiro and Mr. Yamada wonder if Mrs. Yamada is beginning to see reality. (full context)
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Ichiro decides that he has to get away from his parents. He believes that they messed... (full context)
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...the letter “could be nothing,” and maybe it isn’t her sister after all. This frustrates Ichiro, but his father explains that he’s afraid for his wife. (full context)
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As they talk, Ichiro realizes that Mr. Yamada thinks Ichiro did the right thing by going to prison. This... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Kenji drives to Ichiro’s house. Through the glass of the store he sees Mrs. Yamada placing cans of evaporated... (full context)
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Ichiro and Kenji drive quickly out of Seattle. They stop for coffee and Ichiro takes over... (full context)
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Two hours later Ichiro and Kenji arrive in Portland and have breakfast. Kenji tells Ichiro to drive his car... (full context)
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Ichiro drops Kenji off at the hospital. Kenji shakes Ichiro’s hand and comments that the cop... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Feeling lonely, Ichiro drives back into the city and rents a hotel room. He finds a newspaper and... (full context)
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Ichiro stops for coffee in a diner, and considers two other classifieds he had circled in... (full context)
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Ichiro decides to look at a draftsman position in a small engineering firm. He drives to... (full context)
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Mr. Carrick tells Ichiro that he thinks the government made a mistake interning its Japanese citizens. Mr. Carrick used... (full context)
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Mr. Carrick asks Ichiro when he wants to start. He offers him $265 a month, $300 after a year.... (full context)
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Ichiro decides to come clean. He stands to leave and tells Mr. Carrick he’s not a... (full context)
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Ichiro and Mr. Carrick shake hands and then Ichiro leaves. Although he does not expect to... (full context)
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Ichiro returns to his hotel. He sleeps for many hours and wakes late in the evening.... (full context)
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Ichiro leaves the hotel in search of food. He remembers hearing about Burnside Café, and seeks... (full context)
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The boy asks Ichiro if he is Japanese, and he lies, first saying he’s a decorated veteran, and then... (full context)
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Back in his hotel room, Ichiro wonders if the “land of happily-ever-after” could ever be accessible to him. Or, if he... (full context)
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Ichiro considers that maybe everyone is on the outside, “pushing and shoving and screaming to get... (full context)
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The next morning, Ichiro drives to the hospital. Visiting hours haven’t begun, but he slips upstairs to Kenji’s room.... (full context)
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Kenji advises Ichiro to return to Seattle. Although the harassment from other Japanese people, especially those in the... (full context)
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...cluster together. He sees it as a kind of internment camp of their own making. Ichiro points out that this happens with many ethnic or religious minorities. Kenji agrees that this... (full context)
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Kenji tells Ichiro that he’s going to write to Ralph, and tell him that Ichiro and Emi are... (full context)
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...again.” Kenji acknowledges there might not be anything after he dies, but he doesn’t mind. Ichiro says goodbye, choking up as he leaves the room. (full context)
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Ichiro takes seven hours to drive back to Seattle, where he first visits Emi. She is... (full context)
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Ichiro tells Emi about Mr. Carrick’s job offer. Emi notes that Mr. Carrick “sounds like the... (full context)
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Emi tells Ichiro that her neighbor, Mr. Maeno, would give Ichiro work. He thanks her but turns down... (full context)
Chapter 8
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At Ichiro’s house, Mr. Yamada returns from the liquor store with three bottles of alcohol. He begins... (full context)
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Mr. Yamada calls out to his sons, Taro and Ichiro, but they are not home and do not respond. He begins drinking again, heavily, accidentally... (full context)
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Ichiro returns to Seattle. He believes he will never see Kenji or Emi ever again. He... (full context)
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Ichiro drives to Kenji’s house. He rings the doorbell and greats Mr. Kanno, who invites him... (full context)
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Mr. Kanno offers to drive Ichiro home. As they drive, he tells Ichiro that he will go down to Portland to... (full context)
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Ichiro remarks that Kenji “deserved to live.” Mr. Kanno adds that Kenji deserved to be happy.... (full context)
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Mr. Kanno drops Ichiro off at his home. Ichiro is confused by the quietness and smell of whisky. The... (full context)
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Ichiro turns off the water, and pulls Mrs. Yamada out of the tub. He feels nothing.... (full context)
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Ichiro moves Mrs. Yamada’s body to the bedroom and looks up the coroner’s name in the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Ichiro sits in the front row of the Buddhist church where the funeral is held, and... (full context)
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At the service a priest speaks, followed by a series of old men. Ichiro feels as though he is “hearing about a stranger.” He has trouble believing that Mrs.... (full context)
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Ichiro knows he should see Mrs. Yamada’s funeral through, and understands that she sacrificed to give... (full context)
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Freddie takes Ichiro to a drive-in where they get hamburgers and coffee. They talk about their lives. Freddie... (full context)
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The conversation moves to their families. Ichiro is not hungry, perhaps because of grief, and Freddie tries to be sympathetic. Freddie remarks... (full context)
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Freddie also observes that his parents have nothing left to live for. Ichiro is surprised by this insight, but agrees. The Issei who have been unable to assimilate... (full context)
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After eating, Freddie and Ichiro drive around town. Freddie is driving dangerously fast, but will not slow down. They talk... (full context)
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Freddie drops Ichiro off at the family store. Ichiro makes tea and plays with Taro’s old deck of... (full context)
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Ichiro hears a knock at the door. Emi has come to visit and give her condolences... (full context)
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Before Emi can leave, Ichiro changes his mind and decides to join Emi, and the two of them go dancing.... (full context)
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After dancing for a while, Emi and Ichiro sit down. They don’t speak, but smile at each other. A middle-aged man comes over,... (full context)
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Ichiro arrives home late that night. Mr. Yamada is tying up packages to send to Japan.... (full context)
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Ichiro sees that Mr. Yamada was not sick like Mrs. Yamada had been. Now that Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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The next morning, Ichiro takes the bus down to the Christian Rehabilitation Center. He walks from the gated entrance... (full context)
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Ichiro makes his way to the Administrative Offices, where Mr. Morrison, the manager, invites him in... (full context)
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Ichiro explains that he found out about the job through Gary. He tells Mr. Morrison that... (full context)
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...likes his job, helping people who need it. But being confronted with helping Gary and Ichiro, who are able-bodied, young, and educated makes him feel “useless,” because he cannot fix what... (full context)
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Ichiro finds Gary on his way out. Gary is working on painting letters onto the side... (full context)
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His break over, Gary gets up to paint again. He tells Ichiro that he thinks they would work together well. Ichiro has decided to pass on the... (full context)
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...doing their best to prove they are real Americans, and no-no boys like Gary and Ichiro seem to be undermining their claim. (full context)
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Ichiro says goodbye to Gary and leaves the Christian Rehabilitation Center. He takes a bus back... (full context)
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Ichiro liked this new church, until one Sunday he noticed an old black man standing in... (full context)
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Ichiro thinks that the world is like a “shiny apple with streaks of rotten brown in... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Ichiro is lying in bed when he gets a phone call from Freddie. Freddie says he... (full context)
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Mr. Yamada tells Ichiro that Mrs. Yamada would have liked Ichiro returning to school and working with his father,... (full context)
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Ichiro meets Freddie in a shoeshine parlor. Freddie tries to get the man shining his shoes,... (full context)
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Ichiro pities Freddie, who he sees has been unable to reintegrate into society. Ichiro, meanwhile, feels... (full context)
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Ichiro is not having fun with Freddie, but he doesn’t want to leave him alone. He... (full context)
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Freddie parks illegally, disregarding Ichiro’s warning that he’ll get a ticket. They go inside and get drinks. Ichiro toasts to... (full context)
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Although Ichiro does not want to fight, he feels obligated to defend his friend. He follows Bull... (full context)
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Freddie attacks Bull. Ichiro tries to intervene and get Bull to stop fighting, but he won’t, so Ichiro punches... (full context)
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 Ichiro stands for a moment. He feels “utterly exhausted,” but knows that Freddie “would have to... (full context)