cover image Giant Robot: Thirty Years of Defining Asian-American Pop Culture

Giant Robot: Thirty Years of Defining Asian-American Pop Culture

Eric Nakamura. Drawn & Quarterly, $49.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-7704-6713-2

Nakamura debuts with an exuberant tribute to the zine he and fellow UCLA student Martin Wong cofounded in 1994 with the aim of “writing about stuff we liked.” Giant Robot initially focused on attitude-filled, first-person articles covering “indie rock, Hello Kitty, [and] kung fu movies,” then broadened its editorial range to cover taste tests of Asian food, interviews with film stars and musicians, and commentaries on Asian American history and identity. Bringing together photos, articles, and interviews with the zine’s fans and founders, this retrospective captures the passionate, DIY ethos that garnered Giant Robot a following and eventually led to its distribution in Tower Records stores, as well as the creation of Giant Robot stores (several of which remained open after the magazine shuttered in 2010). Throughout, Nakamura sheds light on how the zine paradoxically found success thanks to its refusal to prove itself to a mainstream culture in which Asian Americans were often cast, according to actor and Giant Robot fan Randall Park, as “decor in a white protagonist’s surroundings” (“Here was a magazine that said, fuck that—we’re already cool, and here’s why,” Park adds). The result is both a rousing ode to a vibrant period in pop culture history and an intriguing look at shifting notions of Asian American identity. Photos. (Sept.)