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>  News Releases >   2002 >   January

Dartmouth students build their own Main Street

Posted 01/19/02

To most people the name "Main Street" evokes the plate glass storefronts and tree-lined sidewalks of a prototypical American town. But to Shirley Lin and Jeanette Park, co-founders of Main Street: Dartmouth's Asian American and Cross-Cultural Magazine, "Main Street" is Flushing, N. Y., an Asian community ensconced in one of the country's most ethnically diverse regions, a place where cultures intersect in a rich milieu of language, food and custom.

"My neighbors were French, Italian, Cuban, Dominican, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani," said Lin, a senior majoring in Spanish and Women's Studies. She and fellow senior Park, a History and Sociology major, grew up in Elmhurst and Little Neck, N.Y., respectively, and attended the same high school: Stuyvesant. For both, the diversity of their hometown fed their desire to create a publication at Dartmouth that reflected the polyphony of voices on campus.

"Calling the magazine Main Street was a desire to evoke that image of Middle America, and, at the same time, to challenge that idea," said Park. "It's also a reference back to the community. The main thoroughfare through Flushing really is called Main Street."

Though Lin and Park were only acquaintances in high school, they found themselves traveling similar paths through college. Both are Asian American; Lin's parents emigrated from Hong Kong, while Park is Korean American. Both are involved in the College's many Asian student organizations, including the Pan Asian Council. And both developed a strong interest in creating a publication that would generate discussion about the ideas and issues that arose at the council's meetings while also highlighting noted campus visitors like Ang Lee, Yo-Yo Ma, and Vijay Prashad.

"What happened," said Park, "is that we were in the basement of the library and I went up to Shirley and said, 'We need to put together an Asian American magazine at Dartmouth.'"

They forged a partnership that has lasted through four complete issues and the planning of a fifth, with no end in sight. They began by putting together an editorial team of seven--only two of whom had prior publication experience--and with the support of Dartmouth's Asian and Asian American Student Advisor, Nora Yasumura, produced a full-bleed, black-cover, thirty-six page magazine with news, features, opinion and photography. Lin and Park co-wrote the cover article, "Transitions," which examined changes in the Asian American community at Dartmouth.

"Our goals were to promote awareness in the Dartmouth community as a whole and to increase scholarship in Asian American issues," said Park.

Both are proud of Main Street's editorial quality. Past articles have included discussions of campus issues, such as the College's diversity initiative, national issues like anti-Asian hate crimes, and international problems like dam building in India, a piece for which the writer, Swati Rana '02, interviewed the noted Indian author Arundhati Roy.

"We spend so much time discussing and arguing and picking over every piece that I feel very confident about the relevance and accuracy of what we publish," said Lin.

Now, with the magazine heading into its second year and its founders moving closer to graduation, Lin and Park are preparing to pass the torch to others in the Dartmouth community. They've organized a board of Dartmouth faculty and staff to advise the publication and have sought out younger students to work both as writers and editors. They've continued to expand the magazine's mission to include articles about non-Asian cultural issues and social justice. The magazine is also growing--Main Street's latest issue is 60 pages long.

"It's a continually evolving mission," said Park. "I think it's always been about the people involved in the project and it will continue to reflect their concerns and what is important to Dartmouth."

After graduation, Lin will pursue opportunities in publishing while Park plans to attend law school. They say their experiences at Dartmouth and with Main Street have provided them with both a strong journalistic and intellectual background, as well as the practical knowledge of editing and publishing a magazine.

"I definitely feel that what we learned at Dartmouth, we can bring back home," said Lin. "Main Street is something we'll always carry with us."

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