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Kiku Hughes

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

Kiku Hughes

Kiku Hughes is a Yonsei artist living in the Seattle area. Her first graphic novel, "Displacement," will be published by First Second in Spring 2020. "Displacement" tells the story of a fictionalized version of Kiku who is taken back in time to various points in her grandmother's life, particularly her time spent at the concentration camp Topaz. Her grandmother died before Kiku was born, and many stories of camp were lost with her. Kiku finds herself trapped in time as well as in camp with her grandmother, and while she learns to live in the harsh conditions she also learns the stories that were not passed down to her. 

I have wanted to tell this story for a long time, but the 2016 election really lit a fire in me. It has been terrifying to see the rhetoric of fear and racist scapegoating continue in the 21st century, especially knowing firsthand that the echoes of that persecution remain even decades later. With "Displacement" I hope to show how the trauma of one generation gets passed down to the next, and how difficult it can be to process that inherited pain when so few stories are told about it. It's a book I want others to learn from, but it also helped me learn about my own family and my own identity. One of the lasting effects of camp is the distance many nikkei feel from their Japanese heritage, and making this book helped me reconnect to JA culture. Projects like Poston Preservation are helping all of us rediscover our past, and are invaluable resources for artists like me. I was lucky to be able to visit the Topaz Museum in Delta, UT, which gave me access not only to artifacts and documents, but allowed me to walk through the same landscape that my grandmother was forced to live on 75 years earlier. These preservation efforts are essential in ensuring we never forget our history. 

The medium of comics is gaining mainstream popularity, especially among gradeschool kids, and I'm hopeful that this story will be able to reach people who haven't been taught about camp in school. There are narratives about camp that I remember learning  in school that were completely untrue, and I think it's essential for us to reckon with our past injustices if we're going to prevent them from happening again in this country. 

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