I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Displacement by Kiku Hughes from the publisher. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
Displacement follows Kiku, a girl growing up in Seattle. During a trip to San Francisco with her mother, though, Kiku experiences a displacement—she is transported back in time and space to her grandmother’s time, when her family was taken to a camp for Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Kiku doesn’t know what to make of it, and doesn’t know what is going to happen to her. But this terrible situation might prove to teach her more about herself and her family.
This is a gorgeous, moving, eye-opening graphic novel. Kiku is a strong protagonist, adaptable and sweet and brave. The side characters like May, Ernestina, and Kiku’s mother are also well-written.
This story functions somewhat as a time travel fiction story, but also a historical account of one of too-many examples of systemic racism in America. Through Kiku’s eyes, we learn about the conditions, circumstances, and injustice that led to Japanese immigrants and Americans of Japanese descent being torn from their lives and moved to the middle of nowhere.
In addition to teaching the history of the camps, this also gets into the concept of generational trauma. Kiku is cut off from her Japanese heritage, as those in the camps sought to distance themselves from what made them “un-American” when they were released. Two generations later, Kiku doesn’t speak Japanese, doesn’t know much about the camps themselves, and doesn’t know her own family’s story. For me, this feels incredibly relatable and personal; Kiku’s life could almost be mine.
And finally, this novel serves as a call to action, a call to learn about the past—even though it is difficult to discuss—to prevent it from happening again, to anyone else. It’s an impassioned, wonderful message, and I love it.
If you can’t tell, I loved this graphic novel. I have a lot of bias for this, of course, being half-Japanese myself and having a relationship with my heritage that is very similar to Kiku’s, but this is an inherently brilliant book. Beautiful artwork, good writing, great characters, and a fascinating story all combine to make something wonderful. Middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults would all benefit from reading this, and I would also love to see what Hughes writes in the future.
Overall rating: 9/10
Displacement is, as of August 2020, available!