Conversation with Kiku Hughes

Matthew Teutsch
4 min readApr 29, 2022

In my Multicultural American Literature course this semester, I am teaching Kiku Hughes’ Displacement alongside John Okada’s No-No Boy and George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy. Each of these texts focuses on the incarceration of thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II, and each of these focuses on the intergenerational trauma of incarceration. The generational effects of trauma run through multiple texts we read this semester from Art Spiegleman’s Maus to Ernest Gaines’ Of Love and Dust.

During our conversation, Hughes and I spoke about a myriad of topics. We discussed the power of graphic novels in conveying information, specifically with the references to the Native Daughters of the Golden West and to her inclusion of Kiku’s lesbian relationship with May. The latter, as most of the book works to do, serves to set the record straight about history, to correct the narrative that has been lost or altered. Hughes mentioned that she received pushback about Kiku and May’s relationship because they said that the couple could not have existed or at least not been public with their relationship. However, Hughes talks about Jiro Onuma and his partner, even putting Jiro in some of the panels throughout the text. These types of moments stand out for me from my conversation with Hughes about Displacement.

Following the recording, Hughes and I realized we misspoke a couple of times. I misspoke about Takao Ozawa’s case. The case I was remembering was Chae Ching Ping v. United States . As well,I misspoke when discussing the citizenship of Niesi (second generation Japanese Americans). They could vote and were considered citizens even when attempts to remove their names from voting registers occurred. See Reagan v. King.

Below, you will see the questions that asked Hughes during our discussion.

  1. In the “Foreward” to John Okada’s No-No Boy, Ruth Ozeki writes, “Reading No-No Boy reminded me that history — and in this case, a history I thought I knew — is so much more than just facts.” As I reread Displacement for this semester, I…

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Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.