A Chapter Unseen in Children’s History Books: Teresa Funke’s No-No Boys

Seldom is the story of the Japanese-American internment camps and the signing of Executive Order 9066 invoked in the curriculum of elementary and middle schools. Teresa R. Funke’s historical-fiction children’s novel The No-No Boys (Home-Front Heroes) is an eerie reflection, an ode to hope and despair in the recent era, where Muslim American registries are proposed by politicians. More unfortunate, the past is not invoked for a “learn from history mistakes” learning experience but instead a rationalization of law-sanctioned prejudice.

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From NY Times

No-No Boys reminds me of George Takei’s legacy production of Allegiance, which unearths the complexity and torrent of allegiance and emotions within the camps. How does one cope with receiving interrogative questionnaires that “prove your loyalty” when you’re in prison? Funke asks the same questions in the internal minds of Tai’s family. Through Tai’s eyes, he perceives the tranquil confusion and rage in his rather poise father and the disillusionment of his older brother, who now hangs around a crowd with a hazardous agenda. Although Tai’s mother spends the majority of the plot as an invalid, shunted to the background and the bed, she gains a momentary footing in a powerful scene where she assures her son to endure (Gamon, as the song in Allegiance goes). Wary of its short length, I did feel the author had the opportunity to stretch the narrative as the story deserved more room to breathe.

Even in a child’s filter, it succeeds in suggesting more meets the child’s eyes. Although a fiction inspired by the testimonies of friends, even if hypothetical, the book is a compelling snapshot into the life of a young Japanese American boy finding his own way to come to terms with his situation. Although aimed for a children’s audience, adults reading it over their kids’ bedside will find rich dynamics and poignant moments of contemplation.

No-No Boys is a historical fiction plucky enough not to end on the clean happy ending; it does not conclude on a camp liberation. We know in foregone conclusions that the camps will be liberated in the literal sense. But that would never reverse the sense of loss and indignity Tai and his family have to survive. There are decisions they make within the camps for pragmatism, and none of their limited agency can change the fact that they lived under the whims of the decision of a nation that was supposed to be home.

Can be purchased on Teresa Funke’s official site or Amazon or Goodreads.

Better Call Saul 2.1: “Switch” Reveals a Cunning Sleight

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Photo from Melty

Jimmie McGill undergoes a “clarity,” or really, a phase, and arguably synonymous with “mid-life crisis,” as Kim Wexler interprets.

The episode teaser opens in the black-and white present day, presumably the era of post-Breaking Bad, where Saul Goodman, now Gene, is a low-key manager of an unremarkable Cinnabon and accidentally locks himself in the garbage room. His only viable escape would be the emergency fire exit. But he’s stopped by the sign of the alarm sign that might potentially alert police. As someone who must remain low-profile, he opts to wait for the janitor. But when he exits, the camera zooms intimately at the graffiti-covered wall where he sat. Carved into the wall, “SG Was There,” a vain homage to his bygone lawyering days.

Now to the past of Jimmie’s old days. It opens by exposing a shrewd editor’s sleight, thus aligning with the significance of the title “Switch.” In the last episode “Marco,” we are baited into believing that Jimmie McGill had walked away from the offer of a lifetime, turning his back from the lawyers interested in hiring him. But last episode’s abrupt cut gave the illusion that Jimmie never set foot into that building. But here, we are revealed that he did proceed to meet them face-to-face, even if he requested time to think it over. It strangely does not cheapen the inspirational moment—“inspirational” in terms of the criminal path—where he hums in tribute to his deceased partner-in-crime Marco. We were duped in assuming that Jimmie was fully committed to a path of Saul Goodman without being tethered to the law or the scrutiny of his brother.

Jimmie retreats to a hotel resort, lying in a pool with his cell phone in a plastic bag. A disapproving Kim finds him there and he tries to convince her this is his best mode of life, his zen. He then eavesdrop on a stock guy’s conversation. He strings her along a petty scam of letting the guy pay them all. She plays along and the adrenaline of the scam leads to them in hotel bed, though no gratifying shots of orgasms or the naked scene itself. Instead, we absorb a mellow aftermath of the tryst. They woke back up to dull normalcy, a resumed friendship and a fleeting affable one-night stand and the realization that, despite all satisfaction of the moment, nothing greater will result from it.

In a subplot is comical if not a tad dragging, Mike continues bodyguarding for the drug dealer Daniel. In one of the most humorous visuals, the dumbass insists on driving in his too conspicuous Hummer with a flame paint-job. He’s our new Kettlemen, batting away the common sensibilities of crime life. Sure enough, he makes the blunder that leads to Nacho robbing his house. And he’s dumb enough to report it, though under the chuckle-worthy pretext of “stolen baseball cards” and treating “oh that stolen money” as a secondary concern.

Better Call Saul has always been nifty at crafting small introspective moments that stimulates a character’s turning point. It’s dark comedy with the undercurrent of tragedy. Jimmie takes a lingering long look at an old sloggy man at the resort and pokes fun at him. But the audience begins to understand that Jimmie sees that’s what he could become. This drives an emotionally logical conclusion: his acceptance of the job offer. Jimmie finds himself in a superficially warm environment—workers shake his hands and treat him like a distinguished peer. He might enjoy the privilege of a spacey office space, but it feels artificial and empty.

The path of this lucrative lawyerhood isn’t to impress Chuck or himself, which he had attempted in the previous season, but accept that maybe this is the universe’s best offer.

Observations:

  • I did a double take, and yes, that was Bluetooth-fellow Ken, the asshole back in Breaking Bad. Have fun discovering your car exploding later.
  • The blue tequila bottle, identical to the bottle of poisoned tequila that slaughtered an entire cartel. Here, this bottle is associated with trickery and cunning, even if this one doesn’t induce a body count. Easter eggs and plot symbols aren’t mutually exclusive.
  • Oh, and those sharp-eyed police? Those are the same ones who visited under poor Skyler White’s domestic distress call. There reprisal into this world proves how small the universe can be in this world.

 

Verdict: A-