We continued the reading of John Okada’s “No-No Boy” as the class delved into the second week of stuying Asian American literature. The novel is unquestionable a fascinating one; with a dark undertone in Okada’s writing I continued to learn more about the protagonist’s exploration of his identity, his struggles of seeking acceptance into the society and his encounters with characters such as Kenji who also leads a bitter life after serving in the war.However, what struck me after this week’s reading of the novel is not how Ichiro continues to struggle through Okada’s detailed narrative, but chapter 8, when both Kenji and Ichiro’s mother die in utter bitterness.
Kenji, who already knew that his time was running out the chapter before, dies solitarily. After being informed that Kenji’s dead, Ichiro hears Mr.Kanno’s words that regret that read:”For him, I often think I should have never have come to America. For him, I think I should have stayed in Japan…he would not now be dead”(184). Through Ichiro’s short encounter with Kenji’s father, the hardship of ascertaining one’s true identity in an unnatural environment is again brought up. As an elderly who can easily identify himself as a full Japanese, Mr.Kanno understands the pressure that Kenji has to face coming from the society against his racial and cultural background.
Experiencing similar hardships of living in an unfamiliar and distant environment is Ichiro’s father, who in chpater 8 reflects upon the times of courtship that he had with Ichiro’s mom. When he experiences the heart-wrenching silence of his wife and says her name through “an utterance filled with despair”(176), I’m torn apart by the bitterness of the scene, and lament a decision that Mr.Yamada’s made but can’t turn back on. Then when Ichiro discovers that his mother has found her life an “erratic release”(185), he still feels the same hatred toward his mother. Ichiro’s reflection on page 186 proves that there has always been a gap and a lack of understanding betweent he two generations.However, Ichiro does acknowledge the impact that his mom has had on him, and similar to Mr.Kanno’s reflection, he asserts that her mother made the mistake of coming to the States.