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Recently, I was away in British Columbia visiting my sister and her family. I was fortunate to receive a big package of great zines from Stranger Danger Distro the week before I left, which I decided to hoard for the trip.
Happily, I also received my copy of the Mend My Dress book, which I ordered as soon as I found out there was such a thing. I really dislike traveling by plane and always make sure to bring a surfeit of reading material, and I was able to pass almost the whole trip out enjoying zines and taking notes so I could write about them later.
Deafula, Issue #1
Author not named
24 pg. at quarter-letter size,
$1 through Stranger Danger Distro
Also available from the author on Etsy
Deafula is a neat little zine about being deaf! The author could hear within a normal range for the first five years of her life, then contracted scarlet fever and began to lose her hearing. By the time she had finished high school, she essentially could no longer hear.
This first issue of Deafula— issues two and three are now also in existence— focuses on telling the author’s story, then emphasizing that she by no means represents all people who are deaf or have hearing loss. To make this point, she gives a lot of really interesting commentary about the medical and cultural diversity among deaf people.
She also gives a guide to interacting respectfully with deaf people, which involves some things which are common courtesy, and others which would conceivably not occur to someone even if they were making an effort to be considerate.
I feel like it must be exhausting to be a person who has to constantly explain yourself to others, and I think it is awesome that the author of Deafula does so in such a helpful, good-natured way despite probably having had to give uncountable “Deafness 101” lessons to people throughout her life.
I don’t know anyone who is deaf, but I have an abiding interest in learning about the variety of people’s experiences in order to be able to treat other people with respect. Thank you to the author of Deafula for making me that little bit less ignorant about the world.
shortandqueer #15, “Speeches and Performances 2006-2010”
by Kelly Shortandqueer
23 pg. at half-letter size
$2 through Stranger Danger Distro
Shortandqueer #15 is a collection of short pieces of writing that Kelly, the zine’s author, delivered as speeches. As Kelly is a trans man and is involved in activism around gender and trans issues, that is the theme of the writing in this issue of Shortandqueer.
Kelly has a very gentle, earnest style, and I can tell from the tone of his writing that he must be a charming speaker as well. I really like Shortandqueer zine for its lack of pretension— In a previous issue (#13), Kelly gives his musical autobiography, and does not hesitate to include lots of embarassing enthusiasms from his youth in the nineties. I admire that.
He writes in an equally disarming way about transitioning and learning to live as a man. He is candid about awkward moments, struggling to re-gender his habits of communication, and aspects of masculinity he’s uncomfortable with.
He describes the myriad small hostilities he faces as a trans person and how he deals with them. (His speech from the 2009 Transgender Day of Rememberance is also included, a reminder that much larger hostilities can befall transgender people, in particular trans people who are racialized, poor, or imprisoned.) Shortandqueer is also a long and text-heavy zine, a fact which as a greedily quick reader, I greatly appreciate.
Mend My Dress: Collected Zines 2005-2010
by Neely Bat Chestnut
Paperback book, 176 pg.
Some weeks past, I reviewed a couple of issues of Mend My Dress, a personal zine by Neely Bat Chestnut that tells fraught and personal tales of abuse, femininity, and childhood. Reading through so many issues of Mend My Dress, I enjoyed getting a better sense of Chestnut’s strong senses both of morality and of aesthetics, which pervade and shape her zines.
The look and feel of Mend My Dress and Chestnut’s perspective are very consistent. It gives a sense of the thoughtfulness with which she approaches thinking and writing about the (often pretty horrifying) experiences she recounts from her life.
She addresses this a little in an issue where she writes about femme and girl identity. Having been abused— sexualized and made vulnerable— at a young age, as a teenage punk she rejected girliness and its associations with vulnerability. Eventually, she writes, she came back around to riot grrl style reclamation of girlhood. With her own experiences of what girls go through, she appreciates a girlish and femme aesthetic as a tribute to the strength and endurance of girls.
One confession that she makes, which struck me as being such a brave thing for a writer to say, is that she has a tremendous fear of and bad associations with writing— her spelling, her handwriting, her vocabulary. Having a better sense of how the determination it took Chestnut to tell her story only increased my respect for her and for the difficult stories she tells.
Please note that this book deals very explicitly and evocatively with abuse, rape, incest, and self-harm, among many other topics. If you have experience with these things, Neely Bat Chestnut writes about them very well, and reading her writing might very well help you think them through, but it is also very likely to hurt. Watch yourself.
- Lily Pepper