Tenacious: Art & Writings by Women in Prison

#28 Mother’s Day 2013

As the title says, this zine is written entirely by women in prison. It is also written for women in prison; the proceeds from selling copies to the general public make it possible for incarcerated women to receive free copies.

We have other editions of Tenacious, but I read our copy for Mother’s Day 2013. The stories and poems vary on their exact topic, but they all focus on a sort of theme of motherhood and women’s health in the prison system. One woman tells the story of her pregnancy and birth in prison – how she was driven to a hospital in chains, gave birth, and only had a few hours to hold her son before being given off to whomever was going to care for him outside (she never said if it was her husband or a foster family or what). After that brief moment with her newborn, she was “black-boxed,” had chains all around her body and was immediately placed in the general population of the prison.

They also write about other problems within the prison system. The Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was created to protect the women from sexual misconduct from other inmates as well as prison staff, has been mutated. Women cannot even give each other a high five without being reprimanded. As for protection from staff, one prison has created a new rule in an effort to protect its staff and its own image. Any inmate found making a “false” claim against an officer is immediately sent to “administrative segregation,” and of course, anything that makes the prison or its employees look bad is officially called a false report. The “new and improved” healthcare system for prisoners also gets a review from an inmate who had to visit the nurse – and pay $5 for each visit – four times just to get a prescription refilled. Her friend went nearly three weeks on a broken foot because no medical professional was willing to take the time to take her seriously and treat the foot.

Overall, this is an amazing zine. It really opens your eyes to the daily struggles of a woman in prison and how messed up  the system is that is supposed to work so well and protect those who need it.

-Tori McManus

Learning Good Consent

This zine is a collection of short essays and articles on consent and the culture surrounding it. On the first page, it presents a list of consent-related questions to ask yourself: How do you define consent? Is it possible that others define it differently? If it’s achieved once, can it automatically be assumed thereafter?, and others. There are then a series of tips about giving and getting consent, as well as personal stories describing the authors’ growing relationship with it. The essays are accompanied by cut-and-paste graphics and hand drawn doodles, all in black and white. My favorite part of this zine is the Personal Bill of Rights, printed on the last page. It lists the many rights that we as individuals all have, from having our limits respected to changing our goals to refusing sex.

Overall I found this zine to be very educational. Given the severity of the topic, I was pleased at how the information was presented in such an accessible and fun way. I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about consent culture and sex positivity to read this zine.

Bitter Ink

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Bitter Ink is a bitterly comical zine with biting sarcasm and sharp wit from Detroit cousins Brian Zeigler and Raymond “Moose” Jackson. The zine features black and white doodles with accompanying commentary and aphorisms-some silly, some outrageous, and some just straight up funny (“stay ignorant, my boy: stay free”; “Oh no, they don’t got no Robitussin no more!”; “The worst thing about not having feet is no suede shoes”). The first Bitter Ink “No. 1” gives a glimpse into American subculture and encapsulates a slice of the avant garde meets daily life. This zine is brought to you by Press Street publications, a New Orleans based 501c3 literary and visual arts collective community that contributes to gallery space Antenna, arts education, and the Room 220 blog dedicated to New Orleans literature. So check this zine out for an entertaining and unique representation of local literary life, showcasing the intimate relationship between visual and literary art.

 

The Nez Perce

nezperce0001The Nez Perce Indians explores the history of the Nimiipuu (“the real people”). This zine brings you past the cigar store caricatures to the Nez Perce Indians’ real human experience, drawing the reader in with 48 illustrated pages by J. Gerlach and illustrator Kate Van Cleve depicting the Nez Perces’ native culture and rebellious movement for autonomous freedom, and the ensuing betrayal, fights for land rights, bravery, and violence. The Nez Perce occupied land what is today Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Learn more about the ramifications of the Manifest Destiny in the 8th installment of the Simple History Series (earlier and later installments cover everything from the Spanish-American War to Hawaii Statehood to Modern Iran). With its narrative prose and intricate illustrations, this zine brings you through the story of an often overlooked tribe set in the beautiful mountain range country of North America.

Cite This Zine

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Cite this zine is a zine on how to cite zines (try saying that five times fast)! Though it may seem a bit meta, this is definitely a useful little zine from Barnard Zine Library that will show you how to cite zines in three different bibliographical methods: MLA, APA, and Chicago Style. The information is interspersed with pictures of women riding bikes, so it’s probably the most whimsically humorous bibliography guide you will ever encounter. Also goes to show you can probably find a zine on any subject.

Falling in Love with Muses 101

Muses

The Muses Guide to Love and Romance is a great comic book styled zine that was created by the Krewe of Muses to fit in with their 2010 theme, Love and Romance. The Krewe of Muses is an all female carnival parade that rolls on the Thursday before Mardi Gras Day, and they are known for being very witty and sarcastic.  The Krewe of Muses actually throws this zine along their parade route just like so many beads and cups. The cover of this zine instantly caught my attention– there’s a vibrant red heart that is being pierced by the trademark icon for the Muses parade—a high heeled shoe.  The heart is bleeding drops of bright red blood on a black background. This zine resembles a comic book but is unlike any comic book zine you have ever seen because it is also a Mardi Gras souvenir! I caught it while standing on the uptown New Orleans parade route! The 21 rules and guidelines on how to succeed in love were also the titles of each float in the parade. I found myself laughing a lot while reading this zine because the rules for Romance 101 were written in a tongue in cheek manner. One section that I found very funny in this zine was the male-female dictionary. For example when one of the female cartoon character says, “Do you love me?” it really means, I’m going to ask for something.” I really enjoyed the Muses parade and look forward to catching more of the Krewe of Muses comic book zines. The dedication in the front of the zine captures the spirit of the 2010 parade:

“This book is dedicated in the spirit of good fun to those in need of advice and inspiration on behalf of formerly disappointed Muses everywhere.  Live. Learn.  Love. Happy Mardi Gras.”

Things I’ve Lost, Things I’ve Found

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This zine confused me at first. Skimming through the piece from cover to cover, I noticed that in the middle of the zine, suddenly the pages flip, and I was reading upside down. Then the light bulb went off, and I realized that this was a two-part zine, one side dedicated to the things that the writer, Katie Haegele, has lost; the other side is also dedicated to discussing the things that she has found throughout her life. Once I understood what I was dealing with, I started reading about the things found. Final verdict: I really like this zine! I like that it is thematic without being campy, the illustrations (by Helen Entwisle) are spot on and great for the character and feel of this zine, and I absolutely love the realness of Katie as a character in her piece.

One of my favorite scenes in the zine was in “Things Found.” Katie tells the reader about the time when she found a leather chair with wheels outside a church. The narrative is quite funny:

“I stepped over the low chain strung across the gap in the fence and went over to the chair and stroked its back, the leather-looking plastic that was punctuated with two buttons. For an old chair it looked fine and –I gave it a sniff–it smelled fresh.

I started to push it onto the sidewalk to take it home, then immediately stopped. The chair’s hard wheels on the bumpy pavement sounded like a tank rolling down the street, and the neighborhood was as quiet as a cemetery. I’d just have to push it as fast as I could and get out of there. When I realized I was having to run to keep up with the chair I thought: Why don’t I just ride it home? I rolled it onto the blacktop of the road, sat down, and started pushing like you do on a skateboard only I used both my feet, and there I went, sailing noisily down the middle of the road int he middle of the night.”

Written on a typewriter, every few lines or so, the reader sees where the author made a typographical error, or where the page shifts within the reel of the typewriter, causing a smudge on the page or a crooked line. It wasn’t too over done (which would have read as just sloppy editing), but just enough to be considered artistic. Also, this zine feels nice to hold—the paper is some type of thick fabric blend. Which is quite nice.

–Theodore Grahams