AIzumi is a daughter of a third generation Chinese – Japanese American father and an immigrant Chinese (Hong Kong) mother. AIzumi, born in Bellflower California, proudly identifies as an Asian American specifically Chinese -Japanese American that enjoys the simple things: her dogs, food, nature, sleep, and art.
Legacies was introduced to AIzumi by a friend from a discord group with other artists as they share links to projects, zines, and job opportunities. This is not AIzumi’s first publication, but this is her first publication on kickstarter. She has been doing her own zines for several years now where majority of zines have been for charity. A big zine she was a part of is one of the X-Men where the money went to the Loft, an LGBTQ organization in Westchester county, NY — home of the original Xavier’s school/X-Mansion. Another zine AIzumi was a part of was a JongHyun Zine that celebrated his life after his passing and the proceeds went to SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.
Below are the responses from AIzumi’s interview with Legacies Staff:
How did you get into illustrating or writing?
Truth be told, I don’t think there was ever a time where art wasn’t a part of my life. You know in elementary where you had those timed reading tests? I struggled so hard because the stark white paper glared at me as I couldn’t comprehend or murmur a single word because I had no idea what was put in front of me. I was told I had dyslexia so I was placed in an ELC for a short time before someone realized that storybooks helped me. The illustrations in books helped me develop the reading skills I struggled with and soon I grew to realize that words and images that coincide play off of each other and told the whole story for me. I think at one point in high school, I finally decided that Illustration was what I wanted to do. It when I was applying to colleges; I didn’t know what I wanted to do besides art and I struggled with the notion of ‘what if I can’t do art’. So, I drop out of AP Lit, AP gov, and Academic decathlon to focus on AP Art. Art was something I loved and wanted to explore more to figure out a way to help those like me.
What was the hardest things to write/draw about? (I.e. revisiting a trauma, self-realization, etc.) In other words, did you struggle to write/draw a certain aspect?
Its the concept, I never know if my concepts come out until the every end. It is also I spend so much time in my head rationalizing everything that I can’t tell if people are able to make out what I want in the end but by then I realize that if I put so much effort into the layout, the visuals, at least one person will get it and that’s enough for me
What inspired you to contribute to the project? (Why did you want to contribute to this project?)
For the majority of zines I’ve been a part of have been fanart zines, its kind of rare to find a zine that wants original work. Especially one that’s so specific to the Asian American experience. On a whim I applied, I’m happy that I did. The more I can express myself and my culture the happier I am. In college I’m always known as the one who brings in their culture in their projects as a main feature.
How would you describe, or summarize, your submission?
I don’t know honestly. It’s the brutal truth. I’m American but inside I’m Cantonese and Japanese. I’m bleeding my Asian heritage and I’m bring it out
Why did you choose to write/illustrate your specific submission? (What was the significance of your submission?)
I don’t think I have a piece like I’ve done for the zine so personal. It was a way to actually say something with my features on it. I wanted a piece that says THIS IS ME. I’ve always hinted, I’ve always shied away from it. But I took the chance and laid myself out there this time.
What, in your opinion, were setbacks you had to face, if any, and why? (I.e. time, memory, self-righteousness, etc.)
For me, it was the anxiety, the self doubt, and a little of depression. There are periods of time where I just don’t want to do anything so I just lay there worried. That’s what happened for me. What also didn’t help when I did have the strength to work on my piece, I messed up when I was inking. I accidentally brushed my hand across an area that I lined with the side of my palm and got ink to splatter everywhere. I had to transfer the image again and ink everything all over again. But other than that, it was smooth sailing.
What were the most important things you wanted to hit on in your submission? (What did you want to highlight?)
It isn’t whats on the outside that counts, no matter how little Asian blood you have inside, it is there. You are Asian, don’t let the divide of “you aren’t Asian enough” (because of your percentage is or if you’re Asian American) discourage you from embracing you are Asian. Be proud of your heritage, be proud you also have the privilege of being born into a diverse land, Be proud of where you stand today and move forewords regardless of what other say about you. Make a stance of where you land.
What do you hope readers/people will gain from reading/seeing your work? (What do you want people to take away from your work?)
I think I said it before, be proud of who you are and where you stand in your heritage, in your blood. Lift your head high and don’t let others tell you you’e something else because you aren’t “enough.” You are, you are enough. You are valid in every way, You have the right, the honor, the pride in your blood to say what you are. But most importantly you are always more than JUST your blood. You are you, and you are enough to stand on your own.
What is your definition of being AsAm, if you have one?
I mean, I don’t have a unique definition of who is an Asian American. If you’re Asian born in any of the Americas, you’re an Asian American.
What does writing/illustrating for this anthology mean to you?
To me, the piece I’ve done helped me in a strange therapeutic way. I’ve never really am able to put my words together on how juxtaposed being an Asian American, growing up in a traditional Chinese(Cantonese) household is compared to the “American Culture.” Outside, I look Asian, I present as an Asian American, I am an American. But inside, I will always be Chinese and Japanese. Inside I am different. Inside I’m bleeding the culture of my mother and father. My experience is unique to me and my family. This anthology helps me breath a small breathe of relief that I’m not alone, I don’t have to so confused on where I stand. I’m able to just be me. I don’t have to struggle with what I stand for.
What food/drink most reminds you of home/childhood? Why do you think food is so important to Asian American culture?
Childhood foods is such a wide range, from those soups my grandma used to make that my mom would make me drink saying they’ll make me beautiful always beings me back to standing in my grandma’s kitchen pouring soup for everyone. Plain jook, Lo Bak Go, Wu Tao Gou, tang yuan, joong, Chinese cakes, or pretty much anything and all things you put on the alter table (including all the oranges and apples) for your ancestors that you get to eat later brings me back to my childhood. For me, these foods for the alter beings be back to my childhood because I remember helping my grandma make them after school, multiple times a year. Food for me is our history, its our religion, its tied to our ancestors. In my family we are Buddhists/Taoists. We pray to our ancestors to watch over us, we offer them food and alcohol, we then eat the food to share it, we save the alcohol for them, we have a connection to the food. It is a part of who we are. Food is a part of family gatherings, it helps us stay connected to our traditions from China. It reminds us of where we came from. It humbles us. Food is a sustenance that brings us life, joy, and a connection to our past. From a simple orange to the process of making joong, food always brings you back to core of who you are as person.