Julia Glassman picked up the first two chapters of Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do” when they were being sold at the L.A. Zine Fest four years ago.
Now, the short 32-page zine has turned into a 329-page novel, serving as this year’s Common Book.
Powell Library hosted a zine-making workshop Tuesday to celebrate zines like Bui’s and showcase how the short-form medium celebrates a return to print communication in a world that relies largely on digital correspondence, said Glassman, the librarian and instruction coordinator at Powell Library. The library has hosted a zine-making workshop in connection with the Common Book for the past three years, but Bui’s is the first book to originate from a zine.
“I’ve always really loved print material and the tactile experience of being able to hold a book in your hands and page through it,” Glassman said. “That’s what really drew me to zines.”
Zines are self-published magazines that utilize text, art and other mediums to spread the creator’s intended message. They originated in the ’50s and ’60s from fanzines, which were science fiction publications mailed out to fans of the genre, Glassman said. Since then, zines have also found a home in the punk and riot grrrl movements, as marginalized artists use the format to forgo traditional publishing. While zines can be comics, they also represent any type of mixed media reminiscent of a collage, she said.
Cynthia Alvarez, a workshop co-sponsor from First Year Experience, said the zine workshop highlights the artistic creation behind this year’s Common Book, which was chosen to ignite conversation surrounding themes of immigration and family.
“A zine is one way of artistic expression,” Alvarez said. “It’s a way to start sharing your thoughts or experiences or viewpoints on what you think is important in the world.”
Basic, text-based zines are typically printed and photocopied, while more artistic zines incorporate printmaking techniques such as letterpress, a type of relief printing, Glassman said. At the workshop, Powell Library attendants provided magazines, scissors, markers and other crafting material for students to create their own zines. Leaders then led students through the zine-making process, which consists of folding a single piece of paper and cutting it into a small booklet.
Third-year anthropology student Jasmine Harris attended the workshop because of its connection to the Common Book. She wanted to create a zine inspired by the novel, so she paged through Asian-American magazines and brainstormed ideas directly into the zine. Her small booklet contained color-penciled lists and pictures she had cut out from the magazines.
Carmela Escarez, a fourth-year political science student, made a zine focused on her personal interest in food and music by cutting out images of people holding instruments. She also layered other magazine images of food to create a collage.
“It’s therapeutic,” Escarez said. “Especially now that it’s midterms, doing arts and crafts is fun because I haven’t done it in a long time.”
Glassman said students typically only submit their writing to their TAs or professors, but the zine workshop helps students realize they can share their work with the wider UCLA community and the world beyond. The workshop is a way for students to make their voices heard and contribute to relevant discussions concerning the world at large, she said.
“My personal hope is that they’ll take their zines that they make during the workshop and then make a million more,” Glassman said.