📖: John Okada’s No-No Boy (1957)
🍸: summer sake sangria
Why this book?
This novel was not well received when it was first published in 1957, and was almost completely forgotten until it was rediscovered in a used book store and then reissued. Now it’s become a classic in Asian American lit.
The title refers to two questions on the Leave Clearance Application Form, aka the loyalty questionnaire, that interned Japanese-American men were required to fill out in 1943:
- Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?
- Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?
These questions were confusing, and like a Catch-22. Would saying yes to question 1 mean you’d automatically get drafted? Would saying yes to question 2 imply that you were once loyal to the Japanese government?
In this novel, the protagonist answers no to both questions, and was imprisoned as a consequence. After WWII ends, he is released to return home and is seen as disloyal by his Japanese American community, but he can’t see himself as fully Japanese either. In a broader sense, as an Asian American, I resonated with the feeling of: Where can you belong when you don’t quite fully belong anywhere? This book calls out the brutal way in which racism in America traumatizes, erases, and gaslights whole communities and generations. Anti-Asian hate is not a new thing. It’s been embedded in this country’s history all along.
Why this drink?
With Memorial Day around the corner, I made a sake sangria to pair with this book, for the summer days to come.
summer sake sangria
4 oz sake
3/4 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tbsp simple syrup
lemon, grapefruit, and nectarine slices
sprig of mint
- Mix sake, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a mason jar. (If you’re making this in a large batch, use a lidded pitcher or carafe.)
- Soak fruit in mixture overnight.
- Top off with club soda and ice before serving.
- Enjoy with or without the soaked fruit. Garnish with mint.
*How to make simple syrup:
Heat 1 part water with 1 part sugar over the stovetop until boiling. Make sure the sugar is all evenly dissolved. Immediately remove from heat and let cool before serving. Any leftover syrup may be refrigerated.
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!