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New 'QuaranZine' Gives Voice, Sense of Community To Women Of Color

Torie Park wrote a poem about working as a frontliner during the pandemic. [Torie Park / OPAWL]
Torie Park wrote a poem about working as a frontliner during the pandemic. [Torie Park / OPAWL]

She appears as a whisper between clouds, a forgotten ghost in the pale blue sky, and yet even still, she never fails to capture my attention.

This is an excerpt from a poem titled “Lunarphilia” by Mi Row. It’s about Row’s adoration of the moon.

Row is a recent Ohio State University graduate and member of local advocacy organization Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership – or OPAWL.

“Lunarphilia” was created for OPAWL’s latest project – a “QuaranZine.”

When we think of zines, we often think of fan-made publications focused on their favorite musicians. OPAWL’s zine, “2020 Pandemic Stories,” is different.

Aside from its unique name, inspired by the pandemic quarantine, it’s the content that distinguishes this zine. There are pieces about working on the front lines, about being away from loved ones and about the rise of the racial justice movements in 2020. 

“Dear Safa” is a personal essay written by Nama Khalil, who teaches cultural and media anthropology courses at Columbus College of Art and Design. [OPAWL]

Some artists expressed themes that weren’t so pandemic specific. There are essays about facing racism as a minority woman or as a non-binary or trans person, paintings that reflect sexual trauma and poems that express personal thoughts – like Row’s “Lunarphillia.”

She urges me to remember our stories together through scenes collected on rolling film. The pictures are blurry, yet I remember how much I love the way she speaks in the sounds of crashing waves.

Looking up at the moon brought Row moments of happiness in a year where such moments were difficult to come by. 

“It was a clear night and I sat down with all of the lights turned off and I saw the moon and I was like ‘Oh, my God, you’re here,’” Row said. “I forgot this feeling of being caught off guard by a smile.”

OPAWL members recognize a special value in this platform for expression.

“They’re just stories that haven’t been heard as much. I think there is something important and authentic about that. Not that the stories that dominate our society are not authentic, it's just that they’ve been told over and over again and we need more stories,” said OPAWL co-director Tessa Xuan.

The idea for the quaranzine arose from OPAWL’s weekly ‘writer’s circle’ event, where OPAWL members came together virtually, provided each other with a sense of community and wrote stories together. 

Jing Lauengco wrote multiple entries for the zine. Lauengco is the founder of Other Brown Girl, a blog dedicated to multicultural storytelling. [OPAWL]

Xuan explains that the “Pandemic Stories” zine is not just for OPAWL members. She wants everyone to experience the art it offers and to get a feel for the struggles Asian, Pacific Islander, Black and Brown Americans face.  

“I want people to walk away with a greater understanding of how violent white supremacy is, how misogyny and our culture of greed and individualism really hurts real people and causes death and destruction,” Xuan said.

Antoinette Charfauros McDaniel, one of the “QuaranZine” editors, says the zine is also an opportunity to document the history of 2020 in the community’s own words – without outside influence. 

“This zine opened up a space for all these women to submit and to be seen and to be published and they were thrilled. I was getting messages on Facebook saying, ‘I’m so excited. I’m a published author,'” Charfauros McDaniel said.

The image of this mural is featured in the zine. The mural is on display on West 25th Street in Cleveland. Artist Gisela Charfauros McDaniel painted the mural to honor Gina DeJesus, one of the three women held captive in the basement of a West Side home until escaping in 2013. [Gisela Charfauros McDaniel / OPAWL]

As the artists shared their work with each other, Charfauros McDaniel pondered how these stories will help to educate future generations.​

“We now know what these women, what their biographies were like in the context of that history," she said. "I’m thinking about the grandchildren of some of the women in that classroom or in the Zoom gathering going, ‘Oh, my gosh. Grandma was a bad-ass.'"

Mi Row shared the same excitement over the thought that these words and documents will endure for years. The way the stories pass history from generation to generation sounds a lot like the way the moon in Row’s poem passes love from generation to generation. 

Carefully passing spiritual wisdom from ancestor to ancestor to future ancestor, and I cannot help but marvel at her masterpiece.


OPAWL co-director Jona Hilario and the QuaranZine editor in chief Fariha Tayyab joined the Sound of Ideas to further discuss OPAWL's initial vision for the zine. You can listen to that interview in the audio player below.


Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.