Erase This! Conversations of Race, Activism, and Zines with Marissa Yang Bertucci

Zines are a crucial piece of the social justice movement, publications that prompt conversations of race, sexuality, and activism. A zine can be anything, about anyone, made with any items available. They are self-published, or by a small publisher, and usually printed in small numbers.

In definition, “zines are any DIY publication that could include text, or not, illustrations, or not, and collages, or not,” said Marissa Yang Bertucci (pictured), a queer, mixed-race femme writer, counselor, and community educator. “Growing up in an immigrant family, we relied on my mother to share stories of her land and her family in North and South Korea,” says Marissa. “There was something about oral storytelling that made me afraid to forget the stories told to me. Journaling, collaging, and developing zines were a way for me to remember stories told to me - not just in a written way, but visual too.”

Zines have been around since the 1930s as a response to sci-fi stories, where readers wanted to imagine more. In the 60s, zines grew in popularity. By the 80s, they were a form of art separate from the mainstream media and part of both the punk and feminist movements.

Cover of Erase This! zine with scissors and glue stick
Marissa Yang Bertucci, author of Erase This! zine and host of workshop

“A lot of zines are just papers folded or stapled together,” said Marissa. “There is no strict format, they are easily reproducible, and either free or low-cost.”

This year’s Everybody Reads book, Good Talk by Mira Jacob, is a graphic novel, and will be the inspiration for the zine workshop hosted by Marissa in partnership with the library.

In Good Talk, Mira Jacob has similar base illustrations for the characters that she modifies throughout the whole novel. Jacob lays images on top of others, adds speech bubbles, or photos of artists and places them near each other to convey locations, sentiments and moments in time. Good Talk is an example of the difficult topics and themes that can be discussed in a visual way.

“For folks of color, queer people, disabled people, punks, artists, nerds, and any community that has ever felt like they wanted more, zines have been a way to do this,” said Marissa. “It is about dreaming and saying that here and now are not enough, and staying connected to all possibilities for expression.”

Marissa’s current and former students use art as a form of self-expression, and as a way to build empathy in the community. Creating and sharing art has helped students and families feel safe and elevate what students are going through.

In her upcoming workshop, Marissa will guide conversations on personal values, the purpose of art, and self-expression. There is no filter, and no censoring.

“When you think about zines, social justice and race, we can see how a text can be used to carry a conversation, and an illustration to capture a moment.There are more ways of engaging with social change than just changing laws and protesting. One way can be to imagine change and get your message out there with art,” said Marissa.

Teens are invited to register for ERASE THIS!, a free workshop on Sunday, March 6 from 2-4 pm. The event will discuss scenes from zines—  what’s working well and what could be adapted. Event registration includes a DIY art kit, with limited stock for attendees. Registration closes March 5.

All ages are welcome to try creating their own zine by picking up a free copy available at all library locations while supplies last.