As the class has finished John Okada’s “No-No Boy”, I have come to a greater understanding of the hardships that second generation Japanese faced during wartime America. The consecutive deaths of Kenji and Ichiro’s mother, followed by a seemingly hopeful end to the novel, present the Okada’s narrations as one that is mixed of feelings of bitterness and hope. At the conclusion of the novel, it is fair to summarize that “No-No Boy” is a story characterized by major themes such as identity, choices and hope.
Following the conclusion of “No-No Boy”, the class embarked on another piece of meaningful Asian American literature. Common to many other Asian American literary pieces, Chang Rae-Lee’s “Native Speaker” is also one that surrounds itself with the theme of identity. However, “Native Speaker” is distinct in its belief that language is a source of identity. Since the onset of the novel, Henry, the protagonist is confronted by a list of descriptive words left of his white wife, Lelia. Evidently, the words that Lelia left were written to characterize Henry, and they incorporate descriptions such as “B+ student of life”, “overrated” and “emotional alien”. Such words ostensibly contain qualities that are neutral, but in a sense they speak much about Henry’s non-existent identity. As a corporate spy, Henry lives in the shadows; he does not have a well-defined character, nor a well-defined job. As Henry eloquently puts it, he and is colleagues “pledged allegiance to no government” and they were not patriots.
From the early readings of “Native Speaker”, I can already begin to interpret the path that novel is going to take: a path of self-discovery and exploration of identity.