Interview With Zine Maker - Yumi Sakugawa

Angi Brzycki, Senior Librarian, Digitization & Special Collections,
Yumi Sakugawa and her zine, I Think I am in Friend-Love With You
Yumi Sakugawa and her zine, I Think I am in Friend-Love With You. Photo credit: Dakota Lee Stroud

Yumi Sakugawa is a second-generation Japanese-Okinawan-American interdisciplinary artist, and the author of several published books including I Think I am in Friend-Love With You: Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe and The Little Book of Life Hacks. She has also been published in The New Yorker, Bitch, BuzzFeed, The Best American Non-Required Reading 2014, Dum Dum Zine, and other publications, and has exhibited multimedia works at the Japanese American National Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, and the Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

How did you get interested in zines?

I became interested in zines before I even knew what zines were. My first real experience with zines probably happened in college when I was a UCLA art student and went to the nearby Asian-American-owned Giant Robot art and bookstore to browse through their collection of art books, indie comics, and of course, zines. I made my first self-published comic zine in 2008 but I still did not know that zines were their own subculture and scene. Then I made friends with some local zinesters in Los Angeles in 2010 and went to my first zine convention in Sacramento. From there, I began making more zine friends, going to zine conventions, tabling at zine fests, and making more zines.

What are your zines about?

My zines are about whatever I am interested in the moment. In the past, I have made zines about meditation, mental health, spirituality, short fiction stories involving time travel and interdimensional friendships, friend-love, heartbreak, Asian American identity, Claudia Kishi (a fictional Japanese-American teen character from the popular young adult book series The Babysitter's Club), creativity, ancestral healing, and more.

What are some of your favorite zines and zine makers?

I wish I could remember the names of some amazing zines I have come across. There was one zine that specifically was about queer Asian characters in the 90's pop culture landscape, and I love the specificity of that. Back when I was more involved in the indie comics scene, I really loved the zines of Sophia Foster-Dominio, whom I think is such an incredible artist. Most recently, my friend and colleague Samantha Renshi made a zine called Yellow Pearls, which is a zine series about Asian American femme healing and mental health and community. Dum Dum Zine, edited and curated by my friend Taleen Kali, is an incredible Los Angeles-based art and literary zine series that always pushes the envelope in their form and aesthetics.

Your zines are in our library collection for patrons to borrow. What do you think about that?

I think that's amazing! I wish I had zines to check out when I was younger.

What do you think is the future of zines?

I want to believe that zines will always be around in some way or another, and new generations will keep discovering the very particular joy and satisfaction of making zines and sharing zines. There is such a wonderful, tactile experience to zines, and it is a great way to connect with your community, meet new communities, make new friends, and share your thoughts and ideas in an uncensored space.

Why are zines important?

One thing I love about zines is that it is such a great and intimate medium for people, especially those belonging to marginalized communities, to freely share their voice without the need to appeal to some kind of cultural gatekeeper or be pressured to make it more palatable for mainstream tastes. You can be esoteric and specific and singular as you want in a zine and no one controls your content but yourself, and that is great! Also, there is something lovely about the tactile and ephemeral nature of zines that brings the importance of human touch and human connection in an increasingly digitized world.

Book cover for Mind Songs
Mind Songs
Sakugawa, Yumi

A spiritual art zines featuring poetry and illustration, a collaboration between Taleen Kali and Yumi Sakugawa.

Book cover for Bird Girl and Fox Girl
Bird Girl and Fox Girl
Sakugawa, Yumi

Book cover for Fashion Forecasts
Fashion Forecasts
Sakugawa, Yumi

Book cover for Body Songs
Body Songs
Sakugawa, Yumi

Book cover for I Think I am in Friend-Love With You
I Think I am in Friend-Love With You
Sakugawa, Yumi

Book cover for Mundane Fortunes for the Next Ten Billion Years and Other Stories
Mundane Fortunes for the Next Ten Billion Years and Other Stories
Sakugawa, Yumi

Book cover for Intergalactic Telepathic Pen Pal: And Other Super Short Stories
Intergalactic Telepathic Pen Pal: And Other Super Short Stories
Sakugawa, Yumi

Book cover for Goodbye Turtle
Goodbye Turtle
Sakugawa, Yumi