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Bittersweet: Navigating + Understanding Asian American Identity

A zine that explores the ups and downs of Asian American identity

Francesca Tabora


Growing up, I constantly struggled coming to terms with my own cultural identity. Whether it was because of certain expectations that I thought I had to conform to or because I was looking for some sort of validation elsewhere, there was always a part of me that felt disconnected from my Filipino heritage and American nationality. Since then, I’ve been able to discover and shape my identity in a way that feels authentic to me, but, even with that, I’ve still never felt American or Filipino enough. Most of the time these feelings leave me lost and confused, something I know many other Asian Americans understand and share. To address this loss of belonging, I decided to create a zine, containing a new, collective narrative about Asian American identity.


How could I provide an answer to such a complicated feeling? I knew I wanted to create a welcoming space that fostered a sense of belonging, but I had no idea how to do it. One night at around 2 A.M., after asking multiple people for their feedback, I wrote out a journal entry to air out some frustration. I ended up posting a revised version of that entry to Instagram, where I have a good amount of Asian American friends and followers. With everything happening to the AAPI community in the U.S., I wanted to see if people would be able to resonate with it, or if it could just provide some comfort in any way. The responses I got were extremely heart-warming, and the comment section became a place of mutual understanding. It was then when I knew how exactly I wanted to structure my zine.


Discovering and working through cultural identity is such a unique and intimate experience to each person–there will never be a perfect solution that holds the answer on how to deal with all of this. What I can offer is a place of comfort and understanding, where Asian Americans can feel like they are individually seen and heard, even if it’s just a small space like this zine. Titled bittersweet, the zine contains two short pieces of writing that detail the Asian American experience, along with a small section of empty pages for the reader to do whatever they like. Throughout the pages, there’s themes of nostalgia and childhood comfort; I wanted everything to feel raw and real, like you had just ripped a page out of my own personal journal. Putting this zine together has brought me some semblance of peace, and I hope it can bring others that, too.

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