AAPI Month Profiles: Day Nine

John Okada

The Basics: A Japanese-American writer, he is considered the first novelist of his ethnic group.  Born in Seattle, he was a college student when the Pearl Harbor attack happened.  He was forced into internment as many Japanese-Americans were during World War II.  Joining the Army allowed him to be released from internment, where he served as a translator.  His only published novel was No-No Boy and it dealt with the aftermath of the Japanese-American internment camps and how the event divided that community.  Unfortunately, his second novel was burned after his death by his widow.

Why I Chose Them:   The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War is one of those events in American history that many want to skip over and try to not deal with much like the harsh treatment so many other ethnic groups have faced coming into this country.   Ethnic groups do not develop the attitudes they have about mainstream America overnight and it doesn’t result from them just wanting to find reasons to dislike.  The concrete examples exist and thankfully there was someone like Mr. Okada willing to forge that experience into words.   May his novel always serve as a reminder of the damage that America is capable of doing to its citizens.


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