In Search of No-No Boy

Using the Japanese American novel No-No Boy, Frank Abe explores how American society re-integrated Japanese citizens, once branded disloyal and untrustworthy and how the returning subculture comes to grips with its place in American society.

Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund

Frank Abe

Frank Abe, a third-generation Japanese American whose father was interned at Heart Mountain, was an award-winning reporter for the CBS Radio affiliate in Seattle for 14 years. His film Conscience and the Constitution, details the largest organized resistance to the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans.

With a B.A. in theater directing from the University of California at Santa Cruz and training from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Abe (with Frank Chin) was a founding member of the Asian American Theater Workshop (now Theater Company) in San Francisco. He was also featured as an internment camp leader in John Korty’s 1976 NBC-TV movie Farewell to Manzanar.

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The Film

No-No Boy is the classic novel about a young Japanese man's return to Seattle after two years in an American concentration camp and two years in a federal penitentiary for refusing to be drafted into the Army. The protagonist, Ichiro Yamada, returns home forever changed by racism, war, and a community divided over the actions of resisters such as himself. Author John Okada died in obscurity, but the themes of his book and the author himself are revived 50 years later by director Frank Abe.

Through interviews with Okada’s family and friends, archival footage, interviews with survivors and read-aloud portions of the book, Abe explores its central questions: How does American society re-integrate a race once branded as disloyal and untrustworthy, and how does that returning subculture come to grips with its place in the larger society that is itself struggling with change?