Friday, January 8, 2010

Knowing No-No Boy

I've talked to a lot of people about this book, as you might guess, and one of the interesting things I've found is people generally fall into three categories regarding this book:  1)  It had a profound effect on them.  2)  They read it and it had some impact on them but they don't really remember it.  3)  They never heard of it.

One professor friend of mine told me in a parking lot after a performance of something entirely unrelated, "I've gone 360 degrees in my feelings about the book."  I told him, "I think I've gone 520 degrees..." meaning, first, I loved it, then hated it, then loved it, then hated it, and then I loved it again. 

Whatever you think, this book makes you FEEL something.  Sometimes opposing things.  Sometimes things in four dimensions.  It's why people want to adapt it and find that it's really, really HARD to translate this book into anything but what it already is.  Because to adapt it to another medium, one must break it, and that's hard to do. 

I think I've broken it.  What I have right now subverts the novel.  But I think that's all right, because I think, whether John Okada meant to make it so or not, his novel IS subversive.  It hits people in the place where nothing is certain.  Ironic, because the people on both sides of their feelings about this issue look at it as if it WERE certain, but of course, NOTHING is certain.

Sharon found this in the forward to the paperback edition that the poet Lawson Inada wrote, and I thought I'd read it already, but maybe I didn't because how could I have overlooked it?

"Whoever reads this book will be a bigger person for it.  Whoever reads this book will never be the same.  Whoever reads this book will see, and be, with greater strength and clarity.  And in this way does the world begin to change. (...)  No-No Boy is much more than a great and lasting work of art.  It is a LIVING force among us.  And it is just one of the many beautiful and courageous stories of the continuing story of what we know as Asian America."

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