by shaunga tagore
This anecdote certainly reflects the spirit of Toronto's First Asian Zine Fair, which took place at the Tranzac on November 19 2017. This story was told by Chu Nap, one of the founders of WAYF (Where Are You From Collective), along with Rain, who both organized this lovely and necessary event.
The fair took place from 12-5pm, and the whole time the Tranzac was overflowing with people, buzzing with energy, laughter, conversation, and excitement. The place was packed with Asian-identified writers, illustrators, activists, crafters, and lovers of all things DIY. There were musical performances, stand-up comedy, tarot readers and astrologers (I myself had the privilege of doing astrology readings at this event). And of course, there were lots and lots of rad, awesome Asian folks selling their rad, awesome zines. Topics of zines ranged from experiences with mental health, sex and sexuality, queer and trans identity, migration, home, family, food, belonging, building QTPOC* community in the suburbs, battling oppression, healing from trauma, visioning for the future, and a host of other thought-provoking themes.
Being part of this event reminded me of when I first arrived to Tkaronto/Toronto 12 years ago – the first community space I stumbled across was Asian Arts Freedom School (AAFS). With a similar mandate, AAFS was designed to be a place dedicated for Asian-identified folks (it later expanded to include all non-white identified) to write together, dream together, learn our histories and tell our stories on our own terms. This Asian Zine Fair joins a long and strong legacy in this city of people of colour art-making, space-making, and path-blazing.
Why is it still so important for us to be creating “Asian Corner Events” in this day and age? As much as (some of us) may like to believe, we are not beyond anti-Asian racism in this city (or anywhere, really). We are not beyond the impacts of learning racist versions of our histories in our education, if we learned about Asian history at all. We haven't yet figured out how to heal from the trauma our ancestors and families went through, the ways that taught us to be fearful or judgemental of ourselves and each other, because we still want to love each other better. There are still not enough avenues or structures of support for Asian folks who live doubly (or triply, quadruply...) on the margins...queer and trans folk, women, femmes and non-binary folks, young people, elders, people who live with disabilities, mental health struggles, in suburban or rural areas, poor folks, and so on. We're not yet over the ways that we have throughout history been pitted against other people of colour, especially Black and Indigenous communities; how we've been taught to use the privilege we have to climb ladders on top of people, because we are committed to building solidarity and friendships instead. We still need more – way, way, more – Asian Corners to figure out our shit, have dialogue with one another, to empower ourselves, untangle our voices, be confident in our purpose, dream of and create a liberated collective future.
A zine fair that centres Asian voices and stories is so much more than just a zine fair. Zines are a beautiful, inventive, radical tool that many of us use to express ourselves, learn from each other, take risks, build connection and put ourselves out there. Especially if we don't have the money, social capital, or opportunity to be printed by a big publisher. Especially given how steeped in racism, classism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia our publishing and arts industries unfortunately still are. It's hard to be published when you're Asian, as usually only a few token Asian voices get published every year. Zines are a way for so many
more of us to take up space and share our voices. It's a way for us to fuck up hierarchies that exist in the literary/art world, and at the same time deeply listen to what we each have to say.
It was super fun for me to do astrology readings at this event – my line up was full and I didn't get a break the whole time, which is exactly how I like it. It was a pleasure to give some insight from the stars to a chunk of young Asian dreamers, and contribute to an event that is invested in creating inspiration, motivation, conversation, and healing for our communities. I hope that the organizers are able to make a regular event out of this; to continue to build and make space from a vision that is timely and necessary.
*QTPOC = Queer, Trans, People of Colour