My own “how I got into zines” story is trite to the point of embarrassment: I learned about it on Livejournal. This statement feels akin to saying something like “A Facebook page changed my life” in todays terms. But it’s true. It is hard to think about how high school could have been worse, but without Livejournal and my subsequent introduction the zine network it certainly would have been.
Let’s review the sad state of adolescence I found myself in. I lived 20+ miles outside of downtown Tucson where all the cool stuff happened and all the punks hung out. My mom once asked me if I was gothic because I was wearing an over-sized Ramones t-shirt. My only close friends were boys who argued about Nietzsche and played in a post-rock band called Dialectic. Everyone at my high school thought I was weird and snotty because I only hung out with dudes and tended to glare silently at others. Suffice to say, I was miles away (literally and otherwise) from being part of any kickass community of others like myself.
In “real” life that is. Once I started cruising Livejournal sites, the borders of my little life started to open. Within 24 hours of discovering the Livejournal community “Zine Scene”, I was sending postage and $1 bills like a madwoman to zinesters all across the country. I was rather indiscriminate. If somebody’s zine was under $3, I was prone to buy it. The ones I followed with dedication however were mostly written by other misfit girls living in the ‘burbs or equally soulless locations. (I was also inexplicably attached to this zine written by a 30 year old Portland hippie dude).
The thing is though that, while I loved these zines, they all reflected the experiences of white people. Awesome and alienated white people but white people nonetheless. This isn’t something I was very conscious of at the time. While I could never pass as just plain old white, people around me definitely tried to erase any personal sense of Native identity but telling me I wasn’t Indian enough. Maybe this made me want to relate to the stories of white zinesters even more as a way to replace the messy, conflicted mixed-blood identity with the identity of a white outsider.
When I heard the speakers at Meet me at the Race Riot talk about how they had found reflections of themselves in zines, I felt like I had missed an opportunity. Certainly zines had given me the sense that there were people out there who would accept me, but perhaps only the version of “me” that wasn’t a mess of internal contradictions. The speakers at Meet me at the Race Riot however blew open the doors to a zine space where messy personalities that defy expectation and categorization was the norm, a new kind of normal that eschews any sense of normalcy. This made me realize that while my past zine experiences were meaningful, they could have been much more empowering.
The event not only blew open some doorways of thought, it also lit a fire under my bum. I realized it was definitely not too late to reconnect with zines and find that community of mixed-up folks like myself. In fact just learning about the event made me want to finish the two incomplete zines sitting in my desk drawer. While I did talk very briefly to a few people at the event, I didn’t make any new friends or have any in-depth conversations. That’s probably because I’m still as shy and awkward as I was in high school. However, while I didn’t have those conversations face-to-face, I believe they are waiting for me via zine communication. That is one of the beautiful things about zines (similar to blogs in a way) is that they give meek and marginalized voices a space to be loud and be heard.
Now, I not only want to make zines for myself but for all the other mixed-blood and Indian kids who don’t see themselves reflected or even acknowledged in empowering ways. At the very least, there might just one other nerdy little Lindsey out there right now who also really wants to talk about Indians and aliens and what that all has to do with colonialism. Well, a girl can dream anyway.