No-No Boy


John Okada

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in No-No Boy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Japanese vs. American Identity

At the center of No-No Boy is the question of what it means to be American, and what it means to be Japanese. The protagonist, Ichiro, is a second-generation Japanese-American immigrant. His parents were born in Japan and moved to the United States with the intention of returning to Japan when they had become wealthy, and they remain loyal to Japan even after decades in America. Ichiro, in contrast, was born in America, and…

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Family and Generational Divides

The Japanese characters in No-No Boy are divided into Issei, who are first-generation immigrants from Japan, and Nisei, second-generation Japanese-Americans who were born in the United States to Japanese parents. Although there is variation within each generation, most first-generation Japanese immigrants in No-No Boy speak Japanese and little English, and came to the United States with the goal of making money and then returning home. The second-generation Japanese immigrants, however, grew up speaking…

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Healing in the Aftermath of War

Every character in No-No Boy is dealing with the aftermath of World War II and the effect it had on their lives—and each person has had a different experience. Every Japanese person was interned, but afterwards some were imprisoned, while others went to war. Although the experience of war is different from person to person, what most characters have in common is a desire to heal from their emotional or physical pain and move on…

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Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism

Ichiro, the protagonist of No-No Boy, experiences discrimination from many sides. He is discriminated against by white Americans for being Japanese, and he is also shunned by many of his fellow Japanese-Americans because he refused the draft and went to prison. Experiencing this kind of hatred and prejudice makes Ichiro extremely sensitive to the mistreatment of others. Instead of becoming angry at his own mistreatment, however, he is more frustrated by a world in…

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