Mixing fact and fiction in this autobiographical graphic novel, debut author Hughes follows a teen experiencing Japanese internment firsthand through time travel to the WWII era. Japanese American Kiku Hughes, 16, feels disconnected from her Japanese heritage, and she knows little about her family’s history, which includes internment in Utah’s Topaz Relocation Center. On a trip to San Francisco with her mother, an ephemeral fog transports Kiku from the site of her maternal grandmother’s childhood home to the past. Later, pulled from her Seattle home during the Trump Muslim ban, Kiku spends more than a year interned as a Japanese prisoner alongside her then-living maternal grandmother. She struggles over whether to introduce herself and manages to cope with the help of fellow prisoners Aiko Mifune and love-interest May Ide. Through Kiku, readers learn key details about this moment in history, among them the murder of James Wakasa and the further relocation of people who voted, in a loyalty questionnaire, against serving in the U.S. military and renouncing their ancestry. Art features straightforward linework with full-color, often spare backgrounds that focus on characters. Though Kiku doesn’t exert her will on the past, Hughes centers that powerlessness to create a compelling story about an oft-overlooked period of U.S. aggression against its own citizens. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—On a visit to San Francisco in 2016, Kiku, a biracial teen from Seattle, gains a better understanding of her heritage and the power of memory when she is thrust back in time to the 1940s and, alongside her grandmother and many other Japanese people and Japanese Americans, imprisoned in incarceration camps. Kiku uses the slight knowledge she possesses about the future to navigate life at Tanforan Assembly Center in California and, later, Topaz Relocation Center in Utah. Hughes has crafted a compelling look at this moment in history, relying on a blend of research and family memory. Kiku is an introspective narrator who guides readers through the challenges that detainees faced. Those unfamiliar with this period will walk away with a fuller picture of the struggles within these camps, as well as the different ways in which resistance bloomed. Reluctant readers will be pulled in by the book's exceptional design; the judiciously varied panel sizes and layouts coupled with gutter-breaking illustrations cinematically move the story along. The subdued neutral palette roots Kiku's experiences in the past and adds a layer of gravity. Hughes ties her narrative to the present by including moments from the 2016 presidential campaign, with its anti-immigration sentiment, underscoring the cyclical nature of prejudice and how those in power attempt to control the narrative to the disadvantage of marginalized communities. VERDICT A potent look at history and the lasting intergenerational impact of community trauma.—Pearl Derlaga, York County P.L., VA
Time travel brings a girl closer to someone she’s never known.
Sixteen-year-old Kiku, who is Japanese and white, only knows bits and pieces of her family history. While on a trip with her mother to San Francisco from their Seattle home, they search for her grandmother’s childhood home. While waiting for her mother, who goes inside to explore the mall now standing there, a mysterious fog envelops Kiku and displaces her to a theater in the past where a girl is playing the violin. The gifted musician is Ernestina Teranishi, who Kiku later confirms is her late grandmother. To Kiku’s dismay, the fog continues to transport her, eventually dropping her down next door to Ernestina’s family in a World War II Japanese American internment camp. The clean illustrations in soothing browns and blues convey the characters’ intense emotions. Hughes takes inspiration from her own family’s story, deftly balancing complicated national history with explorations of cultural dislocation and biracial identity. As Kiku processes her experiences, Hughes draws parallels to President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the incarceration of migrant children. The emotional connection between Kiku and her grandmother is underdeveloped; despite their being neighbors, Ernestina appears briefly and feels elusive to both Kiku and readers up to the very end. Despite some loose ends, readers will gain insights to the Japanese American incarceration and feel called to activism.
A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery. (photographs, author’s note, glossary, further reading) (Graphic historical fantasy. 12-16)
From the Publisher
"A potent look at history and the lasting intergenerational impact of community trauma."School Library Journal, starred review
"This graphic novel blends historical fact and science fiction into an enthralling time-travel tale."Horn Book
"Art features straightforward linework with full-color, often spare backgrounds that focus on characters. ...Hughes centers [Kiku's] powerlessness to create a compelling story about an oft-overlooked period of U.S. aggression against its own citizens."Publisher's Weekly
"Spare, fine-lined artwork in muted earth tones emphasizes the flat desert landscape and echoes the staid, somber tone of the narrative overall, which is dense with voice-overs reflecting on the reverberating impact of the camps on her family and the Japanese diaspora in general."Booklist
"A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery."Kirkus
“Poignant and powerful...a work of art that is both timely and timeless.” John Jennings, artist of kindred: a graphic novel adaptation