DISPLACEMENT by KIKU HUGHES
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I’ll be reviewing some books by Asian American/Pacific Islander authors this May. First up is a graphic novel. Displacement by Kiku Hughes tackles the tragic history of Japanese internment camps–perhaps better describes as incarceration camps–after the United States entered World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor. My own education regarding the internment of Japanese Americans has been shamefully scattered. We learned briefly about this horrific time in American history in high school, but much of my knowledge comes from my own research. Reading Displacement is a part of this research.
Rendered in gorgeous, vibrant color, Displacement is the semi-autobiographical story of Kiku herself, as she’s torn from the modern day and placed into the same intonement camp her grandmother was forced into in the 1940s. These time traveling incidents are what Kiku refers to as “displacements.” It is during her third displacement that Kiku is essentially “stuck” in this internment camp, where she and the thousands of other Japanese Americans are forced to live.
As I mentioned before, my knowledge of Japanese American internment camps is pretty limited. I knew they were instated during WWII due to racist anxiety after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and that Star Trek star George Takei was forced into one when he was a child, but that’s it. Displacement is not only an entertaining and gorgeously drawn graphic novel, but it is also very informative. Every place in the novel is real. The first camp Kiku goes to, Tanforan, was very much a real place. It was only temporary, but Hughes takes the time to paint readers a picture of what life inside the camp was really like. The citizens there did their best to adjust to their new reality. Hughes doesn’t shy away from how nuanced the opinions of the Japanese Americans forced into Tanforan were, however. She creates a narrative that is both easy to follow and incredibly complex. It just goes to show how varied people are. Not everyone feels the same things, wants the same things, and that’s okay. There’s room for gray in Displacement and I found these conversations to be deeply important.
The book follows Kiku and the rest of the Japanese Americans imprisoned in Tanforan as they’re transferred to another camp in Topaz, Utah. Life in Topaz is hard, and this is when the story takes the time to talk about No-No Boys. This is a term you may have heard of before, but Displacement takes it and explains it in a way that is accessible and easy to understand. No-No Boys are the men who answered “no” to questions 27 and 28 on a “loyalty questionnaire” given to interned Japanese Americans. You can read more about No-No Boys here: CLICK.
Displacement is far from a history textbook, though with the way Hughes deftly inserts important historical context into a lightly sci-fi story about sci-fi…It could be. Aside from the historical context, I enjoyed the casual LQBTQ representation in this book. It isn’t shamed or demoralized. It’s simply there and I liked how nonchalant it was. Displacement also does a good job of weaving modern day issues into its historical narrative, such as former President Trump’s idea for a “Muslim Ban” and the current treatment of migrant children at the Mexican border.
Overall, Displacement is a powerful graphic novel that should be required reading. You can pick up our copy at the Oreana Library today!