More zine reviews! I swear I’ve been bitten by some sort of zine-review-writing bug, heh. I try to keep the zines I review pretty current, but it’s not always an option – I try to review zines that I really enjoyed, which usually means they’ve been around for a while. Still, I’ve included all the contact info for the following zinesters so you can get in touch with them if you want to get your hands on a copy. Also, High on Burning Photographs, Love Letters to Monsters, and If Destroyed Still True are all available to buy at Marching Stars distro.
Alabama Grrrl #9/Love Letters To Monsters #3
Ailecia, US / Ciara, US – learningtoleaveapapertrailAThotmail.com
Let’s state the obvious – Ciara’s zines are just plain awesome. You know it, I know it, she knows it. This issue is no exception, with tales of moving house to Kansas with her partner, dealing with dodgy landlords and difficult living conditions, being disabled, her relationship with her mother, building a community, making friends, and the feeling of liberation after she closed her zine distro. This issue is less political than previous issues of Love Letters to Monsters, instead reading as more of a memoir. I really enjoyed Ciara’s story, and since reading this have endeavoured to get my hands on more of her previous zines. The other half of this zine is written by Ciara’s neighbour and friend Ailecia. I hadn’t come across Alabama Grrrl until now, but that too was equally enjoyable. She discusses the pros and cons of going to grad school, the death of a friend through drugs, punk communities, and the sexist and violent behaviour that deserves recognition in certain punk scenes. This split-zine is very long, very well-written, and very engaging. The layout is a little too plain for my liking, but the quality of writing more than makes up for that. Can’t recommend enough!
Asylum #1/High On Burning Photographs #5
Matt Hahn, US /Ocean, US - http://oceancapewell.wordpress.com
I was not expecting this zine to be as entertaining as it was, judging by the plain cover (but then that’s why they say “never judge a book by its cover, eh?)! It’s a nice long half-sized zine, with half the content by seasoned zinester lady Ocean, and the other half by Matt Hahn, who writes his sections while incarcerated in California. In the introduction, Ocean explains that she “met” Matt through a prisoner book program, when a witty letter he’d written amused her enough to write back and keep in touch with him. Both Ocean and Matt did their own typing and layout for their written pieces. At first it was difficult to keep track of who wrote what in the zine, as the written content isn’t divided neatly into two sections as split-zines usually are… but I think I worked it out correctly! Ocean writes about a day in the office where a colleague tried to recreate a Jackson Pollock piece using house paint and a posterboard. This prompts Matt to write about the relationship between authenticity and authority, concluding that those with power arbitrarily decide what is reality and what is fakery, which subjugates the masses. Ocean also writes book reviews in a haiku format, stories about winter adventures, and remembering the things that New York City has taught her. Matt’s sections gave me some food for thought, as he discusses some really interesting issues, including zombies and human autonomy (“is a zombie theoretically possible?”), the transformative experience that incarceration has been, calling his prison cell “home”, and his plans for when he is released from prison. Both write about things that happened to them in the year of 1997, which includes turning 15 and finding herself for Ocean, and a mystical metaphysical experience with his now-deceased friend for Matt. I’m really glad I read this zine, as every page was thought-provoking and well-written, with some intelligent ideas throughout.
Chronicles of Nadia, Vol.1
Nadia, Australia – nadia.bradyATgmail.com
This is why I love We Make Zines. It lets you stumble across wonderful zines that you wouldn’t have found otherwise – I think what attracted me to this zine on WMZ was the fact that it included a cartoon about Amanda Palmer fighting space monsters, haha! Anyway, this zine really is a mixed bag – as well as the occasional funny cartoon (including one titled “The Adventures of Ian McKellen” – love it!) and a colouring-in page, Nadia also writes a brief history of feminism, reasons why she is a feminist, her reading habits, CT scans, medical TV shows, why Romeo & Juliet is not that romantic, and some recipes thrown in for good measure. My personal favourite piece is a job reference letter written by the captain of a pirate ship, recommending the fictitious Holly for employment – as a former dark overlord of the Seventh Circle of Hell, artist, vampire hunter, and eventual captain of the pirate ship Ass Bandit, Nadia believes that Holly is perfectly equipped to be a tax accountant. Awesome. Interspersed among the longer pieces are little random thoughts, like “My imaginary wedding is going to be totally awesome.” You really get this sense of Nadia’s sense of humour and fun nature. The layout is cool – half handwritten, half typewritten in lots of different fonts, with mostly dark busy backgrounds. Yeah, it’s pretty messy in terms of layout and style, but I think that’s part of its charm! When Nadia sent this zine to me, she also included a mini-zine on natural skin and hair care remedies. What a lovely mail day that was. <3
Swing Set Girl #7
Sarah S, US – sarahswingsetATriseup.net
This zine is, in a word, beautiful. The cover is printed on brown textured paper, and the interior design is simple, with a tree/leaf theme running throughout. This issue focuses on the themes of “family, mental illness, and unconditional love”. Sarah discusses her father’s schizophrenia and how the family try to support and understand him, and then dispels certain myths about schizophrenia (such as the idea that physical violence is a primary characteristic). She discusses her mother, a woman she describes as “beautifully strong” and “the anchor of our family”, her relationship with her sister, her grandmother’s nervous breakdown and the Electroshock Therapy she was given, her freemason grandfather (with some info on who the freemasons are), a legal battle involving her grandmother’s will and her selfish aunt, and her beloved cat. She ends with a lovely piece on how to support a loved one with a mental illness. After I finished reading this zine, I felt more than just a feeling of “be thankful for what you’ve got”, but also a kind of joy in living and the redemptive power of love.
If Destroyed Still True #4
Nine, UK – nineATjinxremoving.org
I’d heard a lot of great things about Nine’s half-sized perzine, but this week was the first time I’d actually read an issue. The zine did not disappoint – inside, she recalls tales of going out on a Friday night “getting drunk and getting action”, travelling on a whim to Norway and spending time sightseeing and paying far too much for croissants, the difficult ending of a relationship, and great crushes that never went anywhere. There’s also a common theme of bisexuality running through many of the written pieces – as a bisexual woman, Nine explains that she worries about others trying to reclassify her and determine whether she ‘really’ prefers men or women. She says she is “living under the spectre of biphobia and in fear of upsetting the lesbian and gay community”. I thought this was a really interesting point that maybe doesn’t get discussed as much as it could be in zines (biphobia is something I used to come across a lot in past social circles, and it used to really get to me – “she just kisses girls for attention“, “he’s not bi, he’s greedy“, blah blah blah. Yuck). The layout of this zine is really nice too – handwritten on interesting patterned backgrounds, maps, and photographs. A lovely read.