To Be Seen: Celebrating the Zines of OC
with Foreword by Elaine Lewinnek
Too often, Orange County is stereotyped as only sterile amusement parks, far-right extremists, or unrealistic television shows featuring hyper-capitalism. The youth-authored zines here reveal another Orange County: a place of transplanted transnational cultures, resilient street vendors and family businesses, mental health challenges, resistance to gentrification, and above all pride in our varied, shared county. These zines celebrate low-rider cars, funk music, hoop earrings, sports teams, friendships, family, and more.
This spring, thanks to a CSUF Scott-Jewett grant, my college students at Cal State Fullerton partnered with high school students in Santa Ana Unified School District to create zines--short magazines, pronounced “zeen,” usually hand-made and self-published, developed by science fiction fans in the 1930s and embraced by punk music communities in the 1980s and 90s, and often circulating in niche subcultures outside of mainstream media.
“Donde es mi lugar? Where is my place?” asks high school student Ana Osorio in her bilingual reflection on personally experiencing the lack of affordable housing in Orange County. College student Angelica Barajas almost answers in her own zine: “Take up space / Physically / Mentally / Spiritually… You deserve it. I promise.” Throughout these zines, a range of Orange County students take up space by expressing themselves.
Angelica Barajas titles her zine, “To be seen (is the most wondrous thing).” She focuses on Latinx groups reclaiming parks and nightclubs that had been previously occupied by white supremacists, but her title can also apply to this entire zine collection, revealing an Orange County that is not always seen in mainstream media. “Locals are hidden,” Sonia Corong observes in her paean to her Anaheim neighborhood creating their own street cultures just beyond Disneyland’s fireworks. It’s not always physical space that requires visibility: Emilia Gaskell reflects on hearing the Argentinian national anthem on Balboa Island, Melany Arlenen describes making her mother proud, and Juanita S. writes, poetically, “She had literature inside her heart.”
Thanks to Santa Ana Unified teachers Ashley Ornelos and Tiffany Garbiso, California Global Education Project leader Lisa McAllister, graduate assistant Kathy Loreto, Heritage Museum director Jaime Hiber, and Citric Acid editor Andrew Tonkovich for encouraging these students to be seen. Thanks, especially, to every student who shared their work. The entire range of student zines from this project is on display through June at CSUF’s Pollak Library as well as the Heritage Museum of Orange County and will be archived in the zine collection of Santa Ana Public Library. Here, we highlight a few of the students’ fascinating visions of Orange County, so that they may be seen, take up space, and share the literature inside their hearts.
Elaine Lewinnek is professor of American Studies and chair of the Environmental Studies program at California State University Fullerton. She is co-author of A People's Guide to Orange County and also author of The Working Man’s Reward: Chicago’s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl.