Cut & Paste is a column highlighting zines and small press publications.
I still have the first zine I ever read 11 years ago. I was a lonely punk living in Portland, Oregon and picked up a copy of Moshtrogen at the IWW Café. It was a punk feminist comp zine written by a collective of punk ladies in Massachusetts. I read it over and over again, while drinking Mickey’s in the stairwell of what used to be a dive hotel on Burnside. My love affair with zines began at one of the loneliest moments of my life.
Eight years later I was looking for zines that mirrored my experiences as a queer punk woman of color. I browsed zine distros, a distribution source for independently published writing, and found that many of them carried the same handful of POC zine writers. We are more than half the world population; there must be more than 10 of us writing zines! The next day, I started Brown Recluse Zine Distro, dedicated to centering the voices of POC zine writers within the zine sub-culture.
My favorite zine writers are the ones that evoke a deep connection between themselves and the reader through unique lived experiences. I’ve highlighted zines by writers of color, exploring anything from long-distance bike touring to navigating relationships and beyond. I hope you enjoy these zines as much as I have.
What to Keep, What to Give Away #1 and #2
I was immediately floored by the honesty in What to Keep, What to Give Away. Khristina Acosta navigates the history of her sexuality in bold and brave ways, helping the reader to understand the fullness of her story and her process of deconstructing her sexual behavior—leaving nothing out. Khristina shares anecdotes from her childhood and connects them to current patterns in her life, tracing mistakes back to their origins she fiercely sets out to hold herself as accountable as she wants to hold others.
Personal sexual history is not easy to hash out publicly. Khristina unapologetically confronts and reflects on her experiences in ways that can be best described as radical vulnerability. She explores the ways that her identity as a queer woman of color intersects with sexuality, relationships, mental health, addiction, and oppression in order to find her way to healing and evolving. These zines continue to inspire me to dig deeper, challenge myself and to not fear vulnerability and honesty. Khristina’s writing is a reminder that we are all complicated individuals with complex histories.
What to Keep, What to Give Away #1 is available at No Shame Distro, Stranger Danger Distro, Blue Stockings, Doris Zine Distro, Fight Boredom Zine Distro, and Brown Recluse Zine Distro.
Going Places #3
Kesheena Doctor is the kind of zine writer that gives me shivers with her ability to piece together personal stories, history and sub culture in Going Places. Kesheena often writes about being punk, Indigenous, a student, a feminist and carving out a space for all of her identities that don’t always fit together so neatly. Going Places is centered around being Navajo, and In this edition Kesheena writes about being a Native American woman navigating higher education. The zine opens with the lyrics to “Go my Son” by Arlene Nofchissey Williams and Carnes Burson, a song that she learned in kindergarten about the responsibility that she and her peers had to their tribe by getting an education.
There is this kind of myth that I feel is perpetuated in academia and in American culture in general that Indigenous people do not exist. Being a person of color in a predominantly white space can make you question whether you’re invisible. Kesheena illustrates what it is like to move about in a space that talks about you like you don’t exist. She explores Indian boarding schools, generational trauma, racism and familial problems with ease, weaving together Indigenous and personal family history as points of strength.
Hairy Femme Mother
Hairy Femme Mother is a deep exploration of self-love. The beautiful layout is accompanied with some seriously empowering words by writer Jen Venegas. Our bodies can be complicated spaces and at times it can be hard to find peace within them. We are taught that the dangerous and discordant parts of ourselves are to be kept hidden and processed silently. Instead, Jen boldly and sweetly shares her feelings around hairy femme visibility, loudly declaring acceptance in the name of political resistance despite having endured so much shame and silencing.
Jen shares the evolution of her hair removal ritual and the ways that she became confident through this process—showing us how we can engage with body hair can be a form of resistance but also how it is important to honor one’s choice to remove hair. This zine is like a warm hug telling you that you are beautiful and that everything is gonna be alright. Recommended for anyone struggling with self-esteem. This definitely put a bounce in my step and sits around my house as a friendly reminder to love the fuck out of myself.
Small Bikes Big Trees
Small Bikes Big Trees inspires its readers to go after something that we were afraid to do or thought we couldn’t do. Jen and Benji write about bike touring along the Pacific coast: presenting pragmatic information, while also thinking about what it means to be two brown folks on a long-distance bike trip. They explore white masculinity, the idea of home, micro-aggressions and persevering through intense physical and mental hurdles. This zine helped me think of how our actions as people of color carries political gravity whether or not that is our intention.
I also truly appreciated that this zine discussed whiteness as a reality but de-centered it, making their experiences and perspectives center stage. Personal essays are broken up with the touring tips, foraging, recipes, bike tour philosophies, their itinerary and photos making this zine a fun and insightful read.
Small Bike Big Trees is available at Brown Recluse Zine Distro
Vital Signs #3
Vital Signs #1 and #2 focus on Rachel Casiano’s perspectives and experiences with going to nursing school and ultimately dropping out. This third issue is explores the nightmare of looking for a job, finding a job that turns out to be a nightmare, quitting said nightmare job and beginning the hunt again. Vital Signs #3 highlights the craigslist job ads oddities, a horrendous job at a doctor’s office and how she copes with unemployment in a smart and entertaining way while Rachel is transitioning into life in New York City.
Rachel’s on the job observations remind you of those everyday “what the fuck!” moments that we all experience. She writing is so vivid that it places the reader right in that exact moment. Since many of us have worked a job from hell, we can relate to many of the stories in this quick read that’s perfect to shove in your back pocket..
Vital Signs #3 is available at Brown Recluse Zine Distro.