Publishers' Preview: Diversity Five Ways: Five Questions for Kiku Hughes

This interview originally appeared in the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Diversity Five Ways, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Time travel brings Kiku face-to-face with her young grandmother in the Japanese American incarceration camps of WWII in Displacement, a graphic novel.

1. I’m always looking for good time- travel stories. What’s your favorite?

Kindred by Octavia Butler. It’s an intense read, but like everything Butler wrote it’s incredibly inventive. She broke the mold not only for what time travel narratives can be, but for what sci-fi can be.

2. As a young person, how much did you know about the camps?

I’ve known about the camps and my family connection to them for as long as I can remember, but never had a good idea about what they were like. Since my grandmother died before I was born, I could never ask her about it. I did reports in elementary school because I wanted to know more, but there just wasn’t a lot out there at the time. Now organizations like Densho ( work to make primary sources available to everyone.

3. What surprised you most about that chapter in history?

I never knew about the camp protests. There’s still a narrative of Japanese Americans quietly complying with their incarceration so as not to cause trouble, but there were different ideas in the community of how to act during this time. I was inspired when I learned about the work stoppages many Nikkei participated in to protest human rights violations at their camps.

4. First novel! What lesson you learned from creating comics served you best in creating a book?

That thumbnailing is just as important as scripting! When you have 250+ pages, you have to have a way to look at the panels all together quickly or you’ll get lost in the weeds.

5. If you were a time-traveler, what time would you like to visit?

Traveling to the past is tricky when you’re not a white man, and any time before the invention of antibiotics and vaccines seems risky. I’d like to skip ahead instead and see how it’s going in 2500; hopefully we’ll have figured some things out by then.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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