Tracy Park is a freelance animation producer, artist, and zinester who has been fortunate to call Los Angeles her home for the last 15 years. She is the proud daughter of Korean immigrants and the proud but exhausted mother of two spirited children.
How did you get interested in zines?
I made zines constantly as a child without realizing it, folding stacks of paper into "little books" and scribbling on the pages. After attending one of the early L.A. Zine Fests (and being astounded by the diversity of content and the inclusivity of the community), I was inspired anew to make zines as an adult and it felt like coming home. I also found the flexibility of the zine medium to fit my schedule of only having 1-2 free hours a night—it's the perfect balance of artistic constraint and freedom.
What are your zines about?
Most of my zines blend advocacy with humor or sarcasm, particularly on the topics of anti-racism, feminism, support for mothers/parents, and immigrant acceptance. And some of my zines are just pure silliness made for the simple joy of it. In general, I see each new zine as an opportunity to experiment with format and illustrative style, but I particularly enjoy and return to making "children's books for adults" zines and comic-zines.
What are some of your favorite zines and zine makers?
The first zine I read in L.A. was Yumi Sakugawa's fan-zine about the Asian-American character Claudia Kishi from The Babysitters Club, and it got me hooked on the medium. Skid Row Zine by the Studio 526 collective will always hold a special place in my heart—their work and wisdom are gifts to the entire L.A. zine community. I am a dedicated fan of Eunsoo Jeong's Koreangry zine series; Annie Nishida's zines always make me cry/cringe with laughter; Dawn Wing's zines about forgotten Asian American activists inspire me; Dakarai Akil's collage zines are absolute works of art, and Emma Jayne's comic zines like Trans Girls Hit the Town have simultaneously educated me and made me weep. I could go on...this is a very incomplete list!
Your zines are in our library collection for patrons to borrow. What do you think about that?
It is a dream come true to see my zines on my home library branch shelf. The first zine I made as an adult was created at several different LAPL branches using library resources from books for inspiration/research to the photocopiers, so my zine journey has come full circle. I love that my library community can read something one of its members created, and I hope to read many more zines by my fellow Angelenos as well.
Why are zines important?
The zine medium is accessible to anyone with a pencil, some paper, and an idea—it is one of the few remaining artistic expressions intended for circulation that can be done without computer equipment/skills, social media access, or advanced literacy. This makes the zine a vital form of expression to preserve and promote within underserved or ignored communities as a means of story-sharing with the wider world. In addition (or perhaps because of the preceding aspect), the communities that zines bring together are often radically inclusive, usually at the forefront of creating safe artistic and physical spaces (for zine fests/events) which could inform and influence mainstream media publishers and organizers. And with modern-day attention spans, the zine requires less commitment from the reader than a novel but provides more thoughtful engagement than social media.
What do you think are the future of zines?
For a time, I was concerned that zine events might be headed in a Comic-Con direction of getting overwhelmed by general pop culture and merchandise, but many organizers now include requirements that the majority of a participant's work be actual zines. (That being said, I completely understand and accept the need for zine makers to diversify their offerings to make even a few extra sales.) In terms of content, the future of zines is bright as long as the community continues to embrace and amplify the voices of all marginalized communities - there is no end to the stories we need to share and lessons we need to learn from each other.
What inspired you to create the zine, Dear Racist?
A man at our local pocket park called my infant and toddler "coronavirus babies" and told us to leave at the beginning of the pandemic in February 2020. I've been racially harassed before, but this was a first for my children, and the impact and rage I felt were much more acute. Unwilling to confront him in person for our safety, I later wrote down everything I wished I could have said back to him. The open letter grew as verbal and physical threats increased toward the Asian American community, including my mother and friends. The individuals who had harmed us and were emboldened by our former president became an amalgamation in my head—a crude half-formed beast donning a red hat scribbled out with my children's crayons. I eventually illustrated the entire letter in that style to create the finished zine.
How were you able to transform your fear and anger in response to each of the scenarios you share?
After burning out on rage-writing, I tried to understand what existential threat these racists felt that we presented. Since the threat they perceive isn't real, I could only conclude their feelings stemmed from their own deep insecurity. It seemed that they chose to be proud of their own ignorance because it was more palatable than being ashamed of it. This allowed me to summon a modicum of pity for them. We were all struggling with the beginning of stay-at-home orders as well, and it reminded me that a mind closed by fear is a far more profound and enduring prison than pandemic social distancing. These reflections helped me to reclaim my gratitude for my culture and community, and my open letter evolved into something more thoughtful than just an exhaustive string of insults.
What kind of feedback have you received from the zine?
I was very touched by the response Dear Racist generated, particularly from the Asian American community to whom I most wanted to convey hope and validation. A few readers relayed the pain of seeing one of their own relatives within the "Racist" character because they had recently cut ties or distanced themselves over differing views on racism. I also hold space for those who still despair after reading it, feeling that no racist will ever acknowledge their hatred as fear or overcome it. And although I'm open to criticism, I hold no space whatsoever for the feedback I've received from those denying that racism is prevalent or even exists.
- Listen to as many BIPOC voices and read the words of as many BIPOC authors and scholars as you can (on anti-racism but also in general). LAPL offers many excellent lists and resources for this.
- Start close to home. Reflect on your own biases/privileges if you are white or white-adjacent. Grow comfortable speaking about the reality of systemic racism within your social circles, because this is where you can immediately effect change. If you get defensiveness as a response, try having those tough conversations bolstered by your anti-racism reading/research from Step 1.
- Acknowledge and learn from your own mistakes, whether it's centering your own experiences over those of BIPOC or only doing performative allyship. Skip the defensive justification when you get called out and refocus on doing the actual work. It's embarrassing, but this is how we grow.
- Be prepared to do it for life. There is no finish line where racism simply ends. The goal is to show up every day to out-educate it and ensure that there will always be more anti-racist activists and advocates long after you are gone.