Troy's new book is The Splintered Paddle, the latest book in the Ava Rome series.
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I'm reading two books at present. No-No Boy, a novel by John Okada, University of Washington Press, 1979, was originally published in 1957. It tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a young man who returns to his home in Seattle after World War II. Ichiro had been away four years—two in camp and two in prison. The camp was a concentration camp in an isolated location where he and his family were sent for the crime of being Japanese, even though Ichiro was American by birth. The prison was a military prison where Ichiro was sent for refusing to be drafted into the army.Visit Mark Troy's website.
Ichiro was a "No-no." In early 1943, the U.S. government required all detainees to fill out a questionnaire to determine their eligibility to leave the camps. Two questions became known as the "Loyalty" questions. Question 27 asked if the respondent would serve in the armed forces. Question 28 asked the respondent to forswear allegiance to the Emperor of Japan. The questions were confusing, not only in their wording, but in the consequences. They divided the Japanese community. An answer of "no" to one was considered an answer of "no" to both, as was a refusal to answer, or a qualified answer. The "No-nos" were moved to a segregation camp. There were thousands of them.
After the war, the detainees returned to their homes, if they had homes left—many did not. Their lives were harder after the war than their lives in the camps. Now, the fabric of the Japanese-American community had been torn by the answers to the loyalty questions.
No-No Boy had gone unnoticed when first published. Okada died believing the book was a failure. Since its republication in 1976, it has become a cornerstone of Asian American literature. I am reading the book on the recommendation of a docent at the San Jose Japanese American Museum, which I had visited to do research for a novel in progress.
The other book I'm reading is simply fun. Black Pulp is a collection of original short stories that run the gamut of genre fiction from gangster to western to jungle fantasy to sci-fi. The stories are written by some of the great names in genre fiction today and edited by Gary Phillips. The common denominator is that all the stories feature characters of African origin or descent.
The stories in Black Pulp hearken back to the era of writing in cheap pulp magazines. As Walter Mosley writes in the introduction to this volume, "People read these stories and novellas for fun. There was a hero, a chance for romance, possibly some magic, or maybe a world of science that we imagined and hoped for. Sometimes there was just a man or a woman against nature in the wilderness of our recent or far flung past."
As I said, this book is simply fun. And exhilarating. Each story liberates the imagination.
The Page 69 Test: The Splintered Paddle.