Books Reviewed

Displacement by Kiku Hughes: A Book Review

Hello Book Lovers!

Today I have another great graphic novel to share with you! I’ve been in a bit of a graphic novel kick and have been reading them so much. This particular one was another title that I received access to via School Library Journal’s Day of Dialogue as a Youth Services Librarian. The actual e-ARC itself came from NetGalley. So thank you to NetGalley & the First Second for allowing me to read this title early in exchange for an honest review/being a librarian!

Displacement by Kiku Hughes: A Book ReviewDisplacement by Kiku Hughes
Published by First Second on 18 August 2020
Genres: MG Graphic Novels, MG Historical Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: ARC eBook
Source: NetGalley
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Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II. These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself “stuck” back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class. She witnesses the lives of Japanese-Americans who were denied their civil liberties and suffered greatly, but managed to cultivate community and commit acts of resistance in order to survive.

Kiku Hughes weaves a riveting, bittersweet tale that highlights the intergenerational impact and power of memory.

my review

Displacement is part memoir, part magical realism with a whole lot of ancestral historical fiction thrown in. Readers are introduces to teenage Kiku as she’s on tour in San Francisco with her mom. They’re looking for where Kiku’s grandmother once lived before moving to the East coast. Then things get a little weird and Kiku begins to be pulled back in time. By the time Kiku is back at her family home after her vacation to San Fran, she thinks the trips into the past have ended. Then one afternoon she’s pulled back again into the past and this time for so long that she doesn’t know if she’ll make it back to her own time. In the past, Kiku watches her grandmother’s life as a young teenager living in the Japanese-American incarceration camp and experiences it first hand. Hughes brings readers into an experience many haven’t learned about before and does so in a way that leaves you breathless.

I fell into this story and couldn’t stop reading until I was finished! The story was captivating and hard to read in some places–that we as America could actually do this (& still do this) is something I struggle to comprehend–but, it was an important story to read and experience through these characters. The Japanese-American displacement into incarceration camps is a part of history we usually gloss over in America and I’m glad I was able to read this one experience of this time in history and that these stories are now being told.

Kiku was learning and experiencing this history with us which really pulls the reader in and makes the story approachable and easier to connect with the main character and other characters presented. Kiku was inquisitive and brave to adapt to her new time and environment. But it was more about the secondary characters for me in this story. I think that harkens back to Kiku being an entryway for the reader as both us and Kiku meet and interact with the secondary characters and the experiences within the camps. I enjoyed meeting these characters and seeing how their stories/lives evolve during the period that Kiku was in the past.

I also really liked how Hughes brought in different perspectives from those in the camp–those wanting to resist and those complying to survive because they weren’t sure what was going to happen to them. I appreciated that Hughes seemed to make the decisions to comply positive ones. It wasn’t an easy decision and I cannot imagine having to make it. I just don’t think anyone should ever be shamed for their decision to comply & survive vs. resisting. I think Hughes handled this aspect of the story and of history really well.

I also enjoyed witnessing how the Japanese-Americans in these incarceration camps adapted–they set up schools, jobs, a council, and a newspaper with information to keep people informed. They weren’t just surviving–they did what they could to create a sense of “normalcy” even though they all knew how wrong it was what was happening to them. That type of strength is incredible to witness.

Lastly, I liked how Hughes showcased and touched on the generational impacts to events like the Japanese-American displacements. Readers saw how Kiku’s grandmother being in the incarceration camp affected the generations that came after (Kiku’s mom and Kiku herself). Kiku’s grandmother never moved back to the West coast. Kiku’s family lost the ability to speak Japanese and part of the Japanese culture began to fade away as within families. This was all due to the sense or need to “assimilate” into “American” culture because their Japanese culture made them a target and different and a cause for displacement and incareration into a camp. That fear and anxiety that it could happen again or even as a result from it happening that first time leads to the culture erasure seen in Kiku’s family and America as a whole.

My one and only complaint is that I really wanted to see more of Kiku’s grandmother while Kiku was in the past. While we got to meet and experience a lot of amazing secondary characters and of course this story is about Kiku’s experience of this time in history, I would have loved some more observations of her grandmother.

Overall thought, this was an amazing read! I wouldn’t be surprised if it won any awards. The artwork was stunning, the story important and approachable, & it’s easily able to be read in one sitting–all wins in my book! (especially for any younger readers picking up this graphic novel). This is a must read in my book and one that I think everyone should pick up! The displacement of Japanese-Americans into incareration camps is a black spot on American history and one that needs to be taught fully and openly so that everyone can learn of these brave people and so that we are reminded of our mistakes so that we might never do them again. Go read (and/or) buy this book! You won’t be disappointed!

five stars

Let me know below if you’ve read this one! Also leave below any recommended reading or any other graphic novels you’d recommend!

Happy Readings!

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