Somerville resident Lily Xie and her fellow creators choose the words of their mission statement with great care, laying out the groundwork of a zine at the intersection of Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) and femme identities.
“Moon Eaters is a place for us to talk to each other about representation and cross-diaspora experiences. We want to talk about things we love, like music, snacks, TV celebrities, trending styles. We also want to talk about things like immigrant journeys, our bodies, estranged families, displacement.”
The first issue of “Moon Eaters,” released in June, features a diverse yet cohesive set of pieces created by APIA and femme artists. Some pieces are heavy—a poem about racial fetishization, or a second-person narrative about going through life with a name that is chronically mispronounced. Some are a bit lighter—an interview with a friend, or an APIA Diaspora Bingo board with spaces like “‘No, I don’t speak Chinese or Japanese’” and “Bowl haircut until the age of 8.”
While “Moon Eaters” is brand new, its founders—Xie, Crystal Bi Wegner, and Ailin Lu—are already thinking of ways that the concept can morph and expand beyond the zine format to tell the stories and do the work they want it to do.
How would you describe “Moon Eaters”?
Ailin Lu: We started out as three friends who wanted to put together a zine, and specifically we wanted to use that format to hold a microphone to APIA, femme voices—we think of femme as an umbrella term that falls under queer. It started out as just a really cool zine idea we wanted to put together, but I think this past month it’s sort of grown a little bit. We’ve been doing more than just putting zines together, we’re also selling artwork and zines and chapbooks by other POC makers, we’re also connecting folks.
Crystal Bi Wegner: The main thing that we wanted when we started it was to create a platform for APIA, femme/queer folks and their artwork, so we just started reaching out to our friends, and from there it kind of spiraled. We got a ton of submissions and people that want to be part of it, so we found that people were really hungry for this sort of thing.
What sorts of art do you picture putting in the zine?
Lily Xie: For a lot of projects, the medium is supposed to tie it together, but I think for this one we’re trying to highlight the shared experience, so kind of whatever medium comes through—performance art, painting, photography—is kind of secondary.
AL: Depending on the type of contributions that we get, it’s also making us want to consider how else to feature the work that we receive. Crystal also does sound pieces, and we’ve been thinking about how do we incorporate sound into something that was originally a 2D platform.
CBW: I think our mission statement has kind of served as the theme, or the editing tool that people have used. A lot of the pieces just have to deal with identity.
You mentioned a shared experience. Have there been any common threads of that experience that have shone through organically?
LX: Definitely. When we started, we actually wanted to have a theme for the first issue, and it was going to be about amateur wisdom, and this idea of when you’re growing up within this particular identity, you kind of have to figure stuff out on your own. There’s not a lot of representation in media or books or even elders that can tell you how to navigate this particular identity, so amateur wisdom is kind of the idea that we teach each other, we learn from our peers and our community, and that’s the wisdom that we draw from. Even though we ended up not necessarily highlighting that theme, I think that was really foundational for us, and I think that does come through a lot of the shared experience.
There’s a lot of stuff about identifying red flags, one piece of important shared wisdom—when do you feel like someone’s trying to take advantage of your identity, when you’re not being respected and what that looks like.
AL: As much as we’re looking for a narrative to share, I think even more so we want to share that there are a lot of differences. There are a lot of differences amongst those in the APIA community, and I think there’s a lot that we can learn from each other. I think it’s difficult to find spaces that do a really good job of bridging different communities within the Asian diaspora.
Where’d the title come from?
LX: We wanted a title that would be shared across different Asian cultures and experiences. The three of us are East Asian, and we didn’t really want something that would be particular to that identity, because we know that the Asian American umbrella encompasses so much more. So we were thinking about what things would tie these different cultures together, and one thing was a relationship with the moon.
AL: And also the moon is a feminine symbol.
You said earlier that you’re really hoping to amplify these people’s voices. What are some ways in which you’ve felt that your own voices haven’t been amplified before, and how have you felt that positioning change, if you have, since starting the zine?
AL: Just a lack of representation in mainstream media. And then to answer the second part of your question, I personally think it’s too early to tell, but what it has highlighted for me is how much people share this need, or this lack.
CBW: I wasn’t encouraged to be an artist at all, and then seeing other Asian Americans pursuing art or pursuing music—I can’t even describe, it fills me with confidence. When I first found out about Yaeji—she has the same glasses as me. Creating a sense of community where we can see a lot of other Asian Americans that are doing the work locally and more quietly, seeing all those people, that just filled me with confidence as well.
LX: I feel like not seeing people who share something with you, it’s this loneliness. It’s really hard to create your identity in a vacuum—you really latch onto whatever you can. There’s queer media and there’s APIA media, and there’s not a lot that is both, so you start to cobble together this mosaic of different pieces of your identity from these different worlds, but there’s a lot of things that conflict. So it’s sometimes confusing, there’s tension there. So having something that encompasses both of those worlds makes me feel a little less lonely.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and conciseness.
This story originally appeared in the Do Gooders, Key Players, and Game Changers issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.