Students in ‘Asian American Family’ course connect race, kinship to create zine

Written by
Sarah Malone, Program in American Studies
Jan. 22, 2019

When scholarship and personal experience overlap, ideas that emerge can become critique and expression simultaneously.

To Paul Nadal, a postdoctoral research associate in the Program in American Studies who taught the fall 2018 course “The Asian American Family,” the connection between race and kinship that the class set out to explore suggested that students’ investigations might produce more than seminar papers could contain.

“My students had been writing papers and mastering the standard academic essay,” Nadal said. “At mid-semester, I wanted them to engage in a different sort of intellectual exercise. I asked them to reimagine Asian American kinship by producing original creative work — in whatever media, be it poetry, art, video, oral history, performance, and so on.”

Nadal proposed combining individual pieces into a work created together — a zine. The students’ final product includes poems, paintings, cartoons, an interview, a graphic novel and creative nonfiction.

Nadal said that a zine, as a community-based form, demanded consideration of diverse approaches. “It was an invitation for my students to continue questioning the norms that underlie notions of family and belonging. Some students may have initially been daunted by the open-endedness of the assignment, but through conversations with me and each other, they found a story to tell and, importantly, the form they wanted to tell it in.”