Let’s face it, zines are always on my mind, but lately that’s more true than ever. Thankfully, I’m not the only one with zine-brain (not a medical condition, from what I can tell), as proven by Gothamist’s recent article about six “killer” New York zines. On November 16th and 17th I traipsed about Manhattan with the following missions:
- one, to host an event called Meet Me at the Race Riot: People of Color in Zines from 1990-Today with the People of Color (POC) Zine Project and Barnard Zine Libarary, and
- two, to join the infamous, anonymous pizza reviewer Slice Harvester for a pizza date with transnational feminist scholar and zine author Mimi Thi Nguyen.
Zines — the independent publications Xeroxed most often by their authors and distributed by small, independent DIY networks — are known for their broad spectrum of topics. They can be about anything and everything, and my 24 hours totally attested to this.
I curated Meet Me at the Race Riot through my involvement with For the Birds, a local feminist collective that also distributes zines with feminist themes, including Mimi Nguyen’s Evolution of a Race Riot and Race Riot 2. With Barnard Zine Library’s Jenna Freedman and POC Zine Project’s Daniela Capistrano, we organized a night of zine readings and discussion with people of color zinesters. There has already been an event recap written, though I find it significant to mention the wonderfully varied entry points that each author took into zine culture.
Due to the recent institutionalization of zines (through the establishment of zine libraries everywhere, including the one at Barnard, as well as public collections like the Riot Grrrl collection at NYU’s Fales Library), they have been made more accessible to people outside of zine culture itself.
Jordan Alam, the first speaker at Meet Me … first encountered zines during her “pre-college” month at Barnard, where students were instructed to make zines about their experiences. Mimi Nguyen, on the other hand, put together her compilation zines in the early 1990s — at the height of their popularity — to make visible the often-neglected stories of people of color in punk and underground culture. Over 100 pages thick, the Race Riot zines are bubbling over with the experiences of marginalized people in underground communities and frustration about the non-acknowledgement of white privilege in these scenes. Clearly still relevant, these issues came up repeatedly during Meet Me at the Race Riot, showing how they can play out often in the same ways over time. There is truth behind the cliche, history repeats.
The day after Meet Me … I met Nguyen and Slice Harvester at Pizza Suprema, one of Slice’s favorite spots. Approximately 2 ½ years ago, Slice Harvester made it his goal to review every single slice of pizza from the tip of Manhattan all the way down to the bottom and just last week reviewed the last slice. When asked about his feelings on the end, Slice Harvester said he felt relieved, he was sick of writing about pizza.
When I relayed this to a coworker leafing through the zine he said, “You can tell … the reviews become less about pizza and more like personal stories.” Actually, Slice’s reviews have always been pretty tangential, and as he nears the end of the project, the narrative aspects of the reviews have really taken prominence.
Another notable facet of these recent zine works is their straddling of analog and internet worlds. Slice Harvester posts reviews online before they are printed in the zine, the Meet Me … event was livestreamed, live-tweeted (under #poczines), and filmed for later viewing. It’s also worth noting that Nguyen’s zines are now digitally available through POC Zine Project.
Still, the internet doesn’t connect people the way that zines do: after the Meet Me … event each zinester on the panel discussed the possibility of doing a tour based on the event. IRL communications bring people together, and provides forums for expression: the internet doesn’t replace this, it just amplifies it.
Meet Me at the Race Riot: People of Color in Zines from 1990 – Today was held at Barnard College November 16. An archive of the livestream is available to the public.
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