First Second. Aug. 2020. 288p. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781250193537.
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.

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