Courtesy of Emily Sun

Macey Keung, 19, had just stepped out of the shower when she saw the Instagram stories: Miumi Shipon, a 16-year-old from her San Francisco Bay Area school, was starting a zine.

Keung didn’t even get dressed before she texted Shipon. “Can we co-found this? I think this could be big; I want to do this all the way; can you get on a Zoom call in an hour?”

Three weeks of back and forth messages and pages of brainstorming later, the pair launched antifragile, a youth artists collective and media platform “for the angry, the marginalized, and the grrrls.” antifragile entered the zine scene on June 16th. By then, countless teen-led, Instagram-based zines have sprung up since the spring, and many more were to come.

Since their inception by science fiction fans in the 1930s, self-published magazines have given marginalized people an outlet when mainstream media shut them out. Gen Z flocked to zines with new fervor this summer, creating spaces made “by teens, for teens” (as numerous Instagram bios declare).

COVID-19 quarantine caught Keung and Shipon in a creative catch-22. They felt unmotivated to make art because the world around them had stopped, yet they needed art to cope with mental health. A zine was the way out. Working towards antifragile gave them a purpose and helped them inspire others.

“Artists can lift each other up and be like ‘it sucks, but we can get through this, and let’s make stuff together while we get through this,’” Shipon said.

Kali Paredes, 18, also founded heartbroken zine out of art bloc and a need to connect with other artists, after 100 days under self-isolation in Lima, Peru. The names of these two zines have a similar ethos: antifragile means that the goal is not to be unbreakable, but rather to break then learn and grow, Keung said. heartbroken means that good can come out of painful situations; like the zine itself.

Kalani Dunn, 16, started Masks4All to sell cotton face masks and donate the profits to Black Lives Matter and Know Your Rights Camp. When the fundraiser ended, she wanted to keep using her platform to educate, call people to action, and boost young voices.

“I think a lot of us are feeling that now we are coming of voting age, getting involved in our communities, building social media presences; but where’s our place?” Dunn said. She decided to build her own, and FOURALL zine is the result.

The creators amplified their missions with the zines’ visual aesthetics. heartbroken opted for soothing pastel palettes, while FOURALL picked attention-grabbing neon pops and block letters. antifragile chose blood reds with Old English font to tell their audience that they want their love and rage, the beauty and the ugliness of being human.

The zines’ feeds are filled with art, but they aren’t limited to formal paintings, sketches, or photos. They welcome makeup looks, music, fashion, film, collages, dance, doodles, poetry, playlists, and spur-of-the-moment diary entries that aren’t carefully crafted but hold raw resonance.

To Keung and Shipon, art is the expression and the language of emotions — it can be the way that riot grrrl Kathleen Hana sings her lyrics, or how the earth creates nature. “Who am I to define what art is?” Shipon said. “That’s what’s so beautiful about it: you can’t define it.”

antifragile’s premier issue centered on youth culture, adolescence, and identity — but not the romanticized “Ladybird” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” aesthetic that dominates indie coming-of-age movies, Keung said. They want to highlight the stories of marginalized people that go unheard in pop-culture, counter-culture, and even in the zines that have popped up this summer.

It can feel ostracizing for POC when zines are curated by white people, as they can’t understand the full spectrum of what those who don’t look like them experience, Shipon said. “We want to make it very clear that we are a place marginalized people can rely on to be safe.”

Many zines have expanded past a print or online publication. FOURALL interviews artists and activists. heartbroken hosts a podcast series, where Paredes chats with her teammates (zinemates?) about social issues and their dreams to help listeners feel less alone, even if they are in isolation. antifragile posts articles on colorism and decolonizing environmentalism, curates an eponymous Spotify playlist with punk and indie rock records, and gives people an anonymous text box to “empty your mind.”

These additions make zines more than just a platform for artists to showcase their work. They are a haven where people can feel seen and supported, collaborate together, and feed off of one another. Here, value is in community, not competition; in connections, not comparisons.

Most creators will return to school this fall, whether in person or online. Balancing homework, AP exams, SATs, or college applications with running a zine won’t be easy, but they aren’t deterred. 

“This is something I want to do forever,” Keung said.