These are the words we needed when we were growing up inside of the heart of American empire.
I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012 and, to my knowledge, there were no zines like this in the works when I was there. So I’m elated to see students from my alma mater organizing now as radical Asians and getting their words out to inspire future generations.
My background probably differs from most of the authors’ backgrounds. The majority of the students who go to UNC grew up in North Carolina, a state that’s not exactly known for its Asian population. Meanwhile, I grew up in Southern California and was raised predominantly in the Asian spaces that are available here. Yet, despite our differences, I find myself relating to so much of what the RadAsians have written.
Regardless of where in the US we grew up, we experience Asian–American liminality: that sensation of multiple worlds tugging at us and wrongly insisting that our identities are mutually exclusive. We feel the distance of diaspora, the confusion of “authenticity”, the loss of assimilation. We are marked as Other and taught to hate ourselves and our bodies. Exotification and fetishization forcibly code us as either repulsive and sexless, or desirable—and violable.
Ra(i)ze is a safe space: somewhere where the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual violence that I’ve endured is affirmed, somewhere where the hurt I’ve felt living as an Asian American is echoed. Ra(i)ze is raw and vulnerable, but it’s clearly aimed at validating the in-group reader’s own rawness and vulnerability.
What I love the most about Ra(i)ze, though, is that it’s bookended by hope. Holly Sit’s “Ra(i)ze” shows that sanctuaries do exist for people like us, and Anne Zhou’s “A recipe for Self-Love” reminds us to be gentle to ourselves as we work out who we are and what we can do to make the world a better place.
The only thing I could possibly ask of Ra(i)ze and future iterations of the zine is for there to be more representation of South Asian voices, and perhaps some more diversity in the Southeast Asian voices as well. My impression is that the authors are mostly Chinese American and Vietnamese American. I’m Chinese American myself, which no doubt accounts for much of why I can relate so much to the zine. But Asian America is vast and diverse—a zine purporting to discuss our shared experiences should reflect more of our complexity.
I wish I’d read these words and met these people when I was struggling to understand myself during my college years. Even though I now have a better grasp on how I relate to the world and have people who support me for who I am, Ra(i)ze still makes me feel less alone.
Buy a copy of Ra(i)ze on Etsy. You can also follow UNC’s RadAsians on Tumblr.