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FORTUNE zine creators discuss the necessity to make space for queer Asian representation, Part 2

Part Two of this Q&A with the organizers of FORTUNE zine continues the discussion on the need for publications for and by queer Asian creatives.

FORTUNE issues 3 & 4 on view and for sale. Photo credit: Joseph Amsel.
FORTUNE issues 3 & 4 on view and for sale. Photo credit: Joseph Amsel.

FORTUNE zine is a text-and-image publication founded and curated by Connie Yu, Andrienne Palchick, and Heidi Ratanavanich. It is a submission-based monthly publication for members of the Asian/-American diaspora, with a focus on work by femme and queer-identified writers and artists. Yu, Palchick and Ratanavanich will release twelve issues in all—the first was released in February 2019 to celebrate the Lunar New Year. In tandem with the publication, the trio organizes events incorporating performance, visual work, and food to mark the release of each installment. With their most recent issue, they also presented an exhibition at High Tide Gallery.

If you are interested in and would like to submit to FORTUNE, you can contact them through; you can find further information on Instagram via @manyfortunes. If you would like to help support and donate to FORTUNE, you can Venmo @printingfortunes. You can view FORTUNE’s show at High Tide until the end of June.

SK: Maybe to broach the subject from a different corner, why do you think there is an absence of this kind of space in Philadelphia? Unlike the situations you reference in New York and on the West Coast, there hasn’t, again, been a sustained presence of queer Asian content despite there existing a clear and obvious interest and audience. Do you think that’s unique to Philly?

HR: As a person that’s been involved in activism in and outside of college, in queer collectives, and meeting so many different people, I only met two or three people who were Asian. Then learning about Grace Lee Boggs or these folks that historically have been doing work, but are not as prominent or that I didn’t feel like was present enough…

In our first issue there was this image, the centerfold actually, [that] speaks to that publication from the seventies, Gidra. We had this A/Public sort of gathering. Eva, who was part of this group, helped organize this photo shoot that was in honor and homage to Gidra. So I think there is something there, that we know exists but maybe doesn’t exist enough. How do we find that physical space?

CY: Like looking not just in terms of geographical proximity but also historical proximity: intergenerational, receiving knowledge, that kind of thing.

I was thinking about this scrappy little zine that I saw at the Lesbian History Archives in Brooklyn — some of their work is holding once-private collections from various self-identified lesbians and queer people. I remember seeing this zine produced by someone named June Chan, and it was called Asian Lesbians of the East Coast. It was just these pencil drawings and poems submitted from folks in her community, but it felt so dear. Feeling like there is in fact some precedent of print history here, I wanted to continue to capture that or enact that materially.

AP: There is something that’s place-based about creating a printed material as opposed to digital that has been important to us—we are printing it here in Philadelphia, building in this community of people living in Philadelphia.

SK: In this zine, you focus on Asian-American and queer identity. Do you think that there something unique at the nexus of those two identities that you’re trying to articulate as a cultural and political statement to a wider public or do you feel like the zine is more like a personal, confessional publication for its contributors and their community? As Connie as saying, you’re uncovering print ephemera in these random places, but they are also hidden as if guarded for a specific audience. It’s like there is something about this particular intersectional identity that is hard to sustain a historical thorough-line for.

HR: What’s really great about having this form of this very limited zine series edition is the ability to address those things, even maybe inject some text in there that speaks directly to that. How we create a form for that is something I am definitely interested in but I also feel like it’s important that we have the space to actually be private for other like-minded or interested folks. Can it overlap and if so, what can that look like?

AP: Thus far, the way I’ve been thinking about it is it’s not necessarily a way to make a statement outward but instead a physical thing to share with each other, more as something created by queer Asian people for other queer Asian people. But that can also shift…

CY: Maybe we’ll find a singular, unifying voice but I think that’s unlikely. I think even at this point, it’s been wonderful and surprising how many different forms and how many different styles are coming up. And if those messages are confessional, I think that’s totally fine! I think confessional has been totally made to be the territory of a certain type of privileged white femme writing, as opposed to more “serious” soul-searching work by cis men, and I think there’s a lot of space for lyric writing and subjectivity-findingthat doesn’t fall within those two camps.

HR: This ties it back to fortune too, being this thing that’s personal–‘this fortune is for you.’

SK: You mention multiplicity of voices. We touched upon the impossibility of presenting a unified identity and one issue that’s been really significant in Asian-American representation is colorism–the difference between light-skinned Asians and East Asians and darker-skinned Asians and Southeast Asians, the latter suffering greater discrimination within and outside the Asian-American community. While not all of you are of East-Asian descent–Heidi is Southeast Asian-American–there is a stereotype that general ‘Asian’ content means East-Asian experience. How do you try to be conscientious in including voices outside of this specific East Asian diaspora?

AP: The original A/Public community wasn’t specifically East Asian, and there was a broader representation of a larger Asian diaspora, so in some sense just the fact that we have been gathering with or building in a community that’s greater than the East Asian diaspora informs what we’re making together. I would also just say we choose themes thinking about how the fact that there is just such a diversity of experiences and ways in which people identify within the group, keeping them pertinent and relevant to the experience of being queer and Asian but also trying to keep them loose so they are inclusive.

CY: There’s this conscientiousness that my Asian vocabulary isn’t Andrienne’s Asian vocabulary and onward, though we do take comfort in shared references, whenever they come up.

SK: Touching on intentional inclusivity, artistic publications in generally exist within an insular community that they tap into for content. In Philadelphia there are distinct Asian-American communities in Chinatown or in South Philly that exist outside of queer artist Asian American circles and often the stereotype around these kinds of localized, neighborhood communities are that they are heterosexual, a toxic and false stereotype that erases queer individuals within them. Is that something that you are all conscious of and want to address by inviting people within these communities to participate or do you feel like that is simply outside your scope?

HR: I don’t know if this addresses it, but in our first issue we were just thinking about the zine and how it was going to look, we were like, “Wait, a huge part of this is that it’s queer.” We want to also speak to the queer Asian audience or voices, but how does one know [who they are]?

CY: We agreed on not being gatekeepers around who gets to write. It would be amazing to reach those individuals you are talking about. We talked a little bit about this in the conversation, but it feels new, to me at least, to know this kinship network. Of course it builds by affiliation, but I can totally see how that becomes a kind of incestuous ground.

The idea is not to keep it there. When we were at AAI [Asian Arts Initiative] for the town hall, someone approached us and asked if we were interested in–they were a teacher–they were wondering if we accepted submissions by youth. We had never talked about this before, but we agreed that, yes, and having folks who are coming into identity as an artist or as a queer person, or even as an Asian American person–

HR: Having space for that is good.

AP: It definitely has been primarily word-of-mouth so far, then going to the town hall broadened it a little.

CY: And we just got an Instagram.

SK: Because the zine will be a limited run, is there a larger artistic goal you all want to build towards and outwards from your publication as you release more issues? Do you want to organize more events or even expand to outside of Philadelphia? Or do you want a more organic trajectory?

HR: It’s a little bit of both. It’s organic and also connecting with folks that are doing similar work who are not necessarily tied to Philly and leaning towards a style that feels good. When I say that, at least for me, we’ve spoke about Yellow Jackets Collective as being something of interest or aligned with what we’re doing. Recently I brought up Interference Archive, this archive in New York City that could be interesting to approach and try to mine their archive for other similar work that’s been done and then try to organize an event there with other New York-based folk.

CY: One of the other cool things about this project and working on it with Heidi and Andrienne is trying to figure out what our print resources look like here in Philadelphia. It’s important to us that we continue to print in Philly and to find our ground here in terms of resources and family-base, contributor-base. We are open, I think, to having contributors who are not from Philly or to having an audience, of course, that is not only in Philadelphia.

In terms of projecting growth, we’re trying to do a gathering in conjunction with each issue release. Something you have brought up earlier was why not other kinds of programming besides print objects? But I think that is what we’re trying to go for. We’re not trying to limit ourselves to material bounds and figuring out what those events could look like, what the scope and audience could be. It feels very new…

SK: Well, it’s great that you’re trying to do these gatherings; community building is all about actual face-to-face interaction.

CY: And also having literature to bring home, that’s nice to keep.

This is a two part interview. To learn more about FORTUNE zine in part one, click here!

Installation view of TECHNOLOGIES. Photo credit: Joseph Amsel.
Installation view of TECHNOLOGIES. Photo credit: Joseph Amsel.