MSG: The Craving for Cultural Embrace
Perzine, Meegan Estelle Lim, @meeganestellearts, $5
It’s easy to assume that living in a big city guarantees diversity, inclusion, and cultural sensitivity. Growing up just outside Toronto, often called one of the world’s most multicultural cities, Meegan Estelle Lim knows it’s messier than that. With MSG, she offers insights into that complexity in the form of a beautifully designed quarter-sized zine, complete with eye-catching red and yellow illustrations across a single, folded sheet. The format makes it fun and engaging, a true work of art. But the content is profound.
Lim tells her story, demonstrating throughout how her experience as a person of Chinese-Malaysian descent living in Canada is, well, complicated. As she recounts instances in which her cultural identity was mocked and criticized by others, she confronts what she calls a “problematic binary” that many people of colour and immigrant families know. Should she comply with society’s expectations of her as an Asian minority, or must she reject her culture altogether for the sake of fitting in? Neither option is ideal, but sometimes there seems to be no middle ground.
Lim’s personal stories map outward, too, serving as an example of a widespread set of problems and patterns. The zine goes on to provide historical context to explain when and how racist stereotypes about Asian people came to be. By exploring the origins of the model minority stereotype, Asian cuisines, and Asian representation in TV and film, Lim compiles her findings into an educational zine that hits close to home — hers and mine.
Having personally experienced uncomfortable situations where my cultural identity was questioned, it is refreshing to read a piece that I could wholeheartedly relate to. Lim proudly shows her extraordinary growth as a person, “My identity is on a wide spectrum, and the only person that decides where I am and how much I connect with my Chinese culture is me.” She doesn’t have to decide between two polarized possibilities. It’s a powerful statement that will stay with me for a long time.