Somewhere in the existential cracks between Tumblr blogs and grocery store magazine racks lies zine culture. This magical niche of self-published expression exists as an international postal and digital network of activists, artists, musicians, and really – just about anyone who has something to share and the do-it-yourself ethos to get it out there.
The beauty and power of alternative media (Tempest shoutout!) is two-fold for me. First, there’s the opportunity for un-censored, holistic self-expression that isn’t facilitated or regulated by mediocre white men in executive positions deciding what’s good and news/artworthy. You can make a zine about absolutely anything: Chicana stoner stories? Check. Cats who hate cops? Check. Poetry for your racism hangover? Check.
[bctt tweet=”You can make a zine about absolutely anything: Chicana stoner stories? Cats who hate cops? Poetry for your racism hangover?” username=”wearethetempest”]
And second, but equally radical, is the community built from the freedom to represent yourself, explore all the complexities of your identity, and experiment with alternative forms of creative communication. Though the internet has changed (and revived) the distribution model a bit, many zinesters continue their legacy as the ultimate pen pals. Getting hand-addressed packages with personal thank yous and extra stickers accompanying a piece of art someone made because they wanted to, maybe even needed to… well, nothing on the internet can replace that explicit “fuck you” to capitalism – especially when it’s a trade. Even better news: Zine fests are thriving! So that fantasy ya’ll had in fifth grade about meeting your pen pal from across the pond 20 years later for a whirlwind affair scripted by your pre-pubescent love notes can TOTALLY happen in the zine scene…
As a white, Hispanic, working class, undocumented, atheist femme from Europe who grew up as a Mormon in Utah and now calls New York City home – there’s a whole lot of messy shit I could zine about to find “my people.” But all I’ve made so far is the cover to a pop-up zine about my middle-school bestie.
[bctt tweet=”There’s a whole lot of messy shit I could zine about to find my people.” username=”wearethetempest”]
So here are 5 spectacular zines created by other people’s besties who actually followed through and uploaded their work on the innernets so ya’ll can get a taste of zine lyfe. I picked music zines as a nod to our riot grrrl foremothers, who were less woke than we are, but bless their rebel hearts. Hope these inspire you to make your own zine!
1. Shotgun Seamstress by Osa Atoe: “A zine by and for black punks.”
This zine is everything: smart, funny, deeply personal and entertaining. Having felt way out of place in many alternative music scenes because of their WAM (White American Male)-dominated culture, it was downright revolutionary to read the perspective of a queer black woman in punk. But I’m not black or a punk, so you shouldn’t give a shit about my opinion on this. That comic on page 13 of Issue 1 is my life, though… There are 8+ issues of SS you can check out, woohoo! Read it.
[bctt tweet=”It was downright revolutionary to read the perspective of a queer black woman in punk.” username=”wearethetempest”]
2. Women Who Rock by various authors: “Making scenes, building community.”
I’ve seen the “festival” zine more and more lately – mostly at music fests run by hipsters who think it’s a creative way to hand out a map to the bathroom. This is way more radical. Created after a conference in Seattle that brought together all sorts of awesome folks to discuss representation and access for women in music, this zine is an excellent example of how to make the work you put into organizing an event outlast the big day. The convo between rockers Alice Bag and Chola con Cello is one of the best music Q&As I’ve ever read. Read it.
[bctt tweet=”The convo between rockers Alice Bag & Chola con Cello is one of the best music Q&As ever.” username=”wearethetempest”]
3. “The First 7-inch Was Better” by Nia King: “How I Became An Ex-Punk”
Simply by sharing her personal experience as a queer woman of color in the Boston and Baltimore punk scenes, Nia King reveals the sexism, racism, and violence that’s perpetuated by the WAMs of this music culture – but everything she says holds true for a whole lot of other alternative cultures and movements. In fact, if you’re doing any sort of radical social justice organizing, especially as a straight white dude, you absolutely need to listen and learn. Read it.
[bctt tweet=”If you’re doing any sort of radical social justice organizing as a straight white dude, listen and learn.” username=”wearethetempest”]
4. Harsh Tokes by Layla Brown: In response to your questionable decision to book Black Pussy
This is the creative, artistic, hilarious, and simultaneously disheartening compilation of correspondence between community activists and the proprietor of a music venue (and his supporters) in Ottawa who decided it would be a good idea to book the all-WAM band Black Pussy. Through printed and pasted emails, Facebook threads, pop culture references, and really great art, you get a clear idea of how deeply rooted lower-case white supremacy is in alternative music communities, and how fucking exhausting it is for women of color to simply get people to listen to why a band who thinks it’s OK to name themselves after a racist Rolling Stones song would be inappropriate to book if you give a shit about the black people in your community. I hope this zine was part of a healing process after all that racist bullshit. Read it.
[bctt tweet=”I hope this zine was part of a healing process after all that racist bullshit.” username=”wearethetempest”]
5. Strawberry Dreams by Paula Martinez & Farrah Skeiky: “This is a place for girls to come and express ourselves.”
This is a short n’ sweet potpourri of self-expression, and I love the name (duh), and that there’s a piece by a 60-year-old woman, cuz ageism is real, ya’ll. But mostly I love that it’s simple: Not everyone is at the level where they can talk feminist theory using 3-syllable words. I’m certainly not there. And these are digestible pieces that feel real and not too over-thought about how a diverse group of women experience life – which is incredibly refreshing after spending the day writing petitions in “progressive” jargon. Read it.
[bctt tweet=”Not everyone is at the level where they can talk feminist theory using 3-syllable words.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Big shoutout to the zine librarians I hit up to help compile this list, especially Jenna Freedman from the Barnard Zine Library. And if you’re hungry for more, get warm and cozy with zines shared by the POC Zine Project, Queer Zine Archive Project, twelveohtwo zine distro, Womanzine, and def go through this list of 50 zines by queer people of color.