1. breathing room
A sufficient buffer of time, space or money that allows for freedom of movement or relief from a given source of pressure or stress.
2. O my Lord! Open for me my chest.
[Surah Ta-Ha; 20:25]
Earlier this year, pre-COVID-19, Free Word invited OOMK (One of My Kind) to reimagine their cafe space as a zine installation as part of the ‘Finding Power’ season. We offered Breathing Room, a dynamic reading room housing a collection of zines and small press publications that challenge, document and offer quietly radical solutions to systems of powers in both their subject matter and method of production and distribution.
Zines have always been small catalysts, ruptures, a hairline crack in oppression. They showed us what it means to spread knowledge without recreating systems of power. They have recorded histories on the margins, disturbed narratives and been a disruptive and joyful undercurrent. There have been zines so honest they have caused intakes of breath and others so familiar or funny you feel your whole body exhale.
Breathing Room was set to be a free public space to read, rest (exhale), meet and plot with a zine collection as a resource to think about how we share, how we recover and transform (together) using zines as a source of communal knowledge.
As part of the collection process, we invited long standing zine makers and collectives Leila Kassir, Jacob V Joyce, Queer Zine Library, Rosalie Schweiker and daikon* to contribute their own reading lists. Loans of entire collections were made by Camp Books and friends.
The brief for the reading lists was simple: which zines have given you room to breathe?
We hope that their reading lists direct you to new zine makers, distros, to begin a hunt for out of print zines or inspire you to make your own. Now is the perfect time to receive a zine in the post.
ZINE LIST CONTRIBUTORS:
Leila Kassir ; @spineless.wonders
I’ve been reading zines for over 30 years, am an occasional zine maker, and in 2009 founded a zine collection in the London College of Communication Library where I was working at the time. Zines, and other DIY self-made publications, have always provided me with moments of recognition, community and connection. I love the varied voices expressed via zines, their directness and subjectivity. I also love the very existence of zines, their conscious rejection of mainstream publishing…and that everybody, genuinely, can make them.
Within the description for OOMK’s Breathing Room is the phrase “quietly radical” which in many ways describes what most draws me to zines, including these five. Although the content of my chosen zines is varied, they all explore ways of finding and making your own space, sometimes within potentially alienating environments, and doing this in a quiet way. Whether it is creating a world around a band that exists beyond the cynical bounds of the mainstream music press or challenging the dominance of middle-class voices and experiences within academia, these zines are concerned with making heartfelt connections. So much power exists in daily, seemingly small acts of resistance, in refusing narratives that make no sense and rewriting them. All bar one of my selections were written during 2018-2019 which was a deliberate choice; I have been reading zines since I was a teenager and am now decidedly middle-aged but I still love reading them. Zines still show me the power of that rewriting, and of keeping on keeping on.
1. Terrible Beauty’s Greatest Bits (2002) by Mary O’Meara and Vivienne Lindley
This is the oldest zine I have chosen, and is the most personal as it was made by my friend Mary O’Meara who died just over two years ago. Although I am not a Manics fan Mary most definitely was, and this zine (really, a fanzine) epitomises to me the excitement, joy (and sometimes pain) of being a fan, and how this can only really be articulated by those in the midst of the experience. This zine is a collective love letter to a band and a community that grew around them, presented in the direct, subjective manner self-publishing often inspires.
Out of print ; @tbfanzine
2. Poor Lass no. 8, Identity (2018) edited by Seleena and Em
Poor Lass was created to fill a huge gap in the contemporary zine community – the dearth of working-class voices in what was becoming an increasingly middle-class space. Zines had also increasingly begun to move away from the “everybody can do it” ethos to a slight privileging of art school received making skills. When Poor Lass appeared, with its themed issues containing a patchwork of voices, it felt like a huge sense of relief, a community within a community. This is the final issue, which concerns “identity”, and has the added bonus of a great cover of a Poly Styrene textile made by Seleena.
Out of print ; zinesandting.bigcartel.com
3. BOOKS Review of Books issue 2 (2019) by Pete Willis and others
Pete’s love of books, reading and print exudes from this zine as it does from his other (ad)ventures such as Dead Trees & Dye zine distro and his second-hand bookshop, BOOKS Peckham. This zine is primarily (but not only) a record in reviews of what he has read whilst in the shop and the range of books reviewed is pleasingly eclectic. Reading, pretty much anything and everything, has been a lifelong safety valve for me so this zine with its choice of books totally untainted by snobbery or concern about reading the ‘right’ thing is a real joy.
4. This is Fake DIY (2019) by Holly Casio
Unfortunately, as so often happens with subcultures, elements of them (usually only the aesthetic elements) become co-opted by the mainstream. This is increasingly happening to zine culture, especially within institutions which, as Holly states, have a tendency to “use zines for diy punk points or as a quick diversity fix”. This zine powerfully expresses views about this which I share and have been brooding about but does so in a much more articulate, generous, witty and thoughtful way than I ever could.
Out of print ; https://coolschmool.bigcartel.com/product/this-is-fake-diy
5. Adventures in Academia #1, I Have no Idea What I’m Doing (2019) by Kirsty Fife
This zine is the first in a series in which Kirsty writes about their experience of being a PhD student, reflecting on their identity and how this affects the experience, for good and ill. This zine appeared just as I had also tentatively approached academic research, and highlighted similar struggles to the ones I was having. I love researching but often feel at odds within academia, that I don’t fit, and was on the verge of giving-up my project – but this zine showed me a way through. The subjective ‘I’ of zines can produce the most generous writing.
Out of print ; www.crosswordszines.etsy.com
Jacob V Joyce ; @jacobvjoyce
Jacob V Joyce’s work ranges from afro-futurist world building workshops to mural painting, comic books, performance art and punk music with their band Screaming Toenail. Best known for their illustrations, Joyce has self published a number of books and illustrated international human rights campaigns for Amnesty International, Global Justice Now and had their comics in national newspapers. Recent TFL Arts Grant awardee, artist in residence at Gasworks and the Tate Galleries Education department Joyce is a non-binary artist amplifying historical and nourishing new queer and decolonial narratives.
1. ‘Da Poetry of My Existence’ & ‘Bare Fucker1es’ by Abondance Matanda
Abondance’s poetry is sick, its so on point and the fact that she hand paints the cover of each zine just makes it so much more special.
Out of print ; https://abondancematanda.com
2. Your Black Friend’ by Ben Passmore
This comic zine which is also available as a book of other short comics of under the same title is all too real. It documents the experience of being the black friend to white people who cannot help but lean into the comfortable trappings of whiteness.
3. ‘Vent’ by Rudy Loewe
This zines inspires me a lot because it articulates a series of incredibly complex frustrations in a way that is digestible and funny.
4. All of the Science fiction zines by J. Applebee
Intersectional zines full of black, queer, erotic science fiction, what’s not to love. The zine I read last was about a cave and some aliens/people having sex in the cave, it was great. I love all of Jacq’s writing/zines but these sci-fi ones were great because it reminds me that, although Jacq has been published a number of times, we are all capable of self publishing the narratives that are missing from mainstream cinema.
Queer Zine Library ; queerzinelibrary.com ; @queerzinelibrary
Queer Zine Library is a diy mobile zine library celebrating LGBTQIA+ radical self-publishing. The library collects LGBTQIA+ zines, comics, and self-published works, travelling and touring across the UK, putting queer history and experiences in the hands of our communities. The mobile library is volunteer led, touring 9 months of the year to make the zines as accessible as possible.
Queer Zine Library is political. In times of fascism we want zines to be viewed as vital living breathing tools for self-preservation, activism, and a rejection of capitalist mainstream publishing rather than just art objects which Look Nice. Zines are meant to be read and shared. We invite queer zine readers and makers to interact with the library, using zines to inspire their own zines, as well as inviting queer communities to help us catalogue – there is power in queer voices documenting our our own histories. Want to find the library on tour, search our collections, or donate your zines to the library visit us here: queerzinelibrary.com
Each of these zines represents the sometimes secret and always powerful connections which queer zines create. That feeling of being connected to a stranger you’ve never met, a community which feels far away, a place, a song, a feeling, an identity. Each of these zines were selected by queer zine library volunteers and each of us at somepoint have found solace, validation, power, and reassurance from queer zines. These zines have helped us to feel seen, helped us find our way, connected us to each other, and inspired us to make our own zines.
An anonymous zine exploring Margate’s gay and queer offerings, from pubs to glory holes, hotels to nightlfe. It occasionally spills out to surrounding towns but largely the focus is on this misunderstood seaside town. As someone from the area I find it comforting to read about the town through a fresh set of eyes. I remember it being camp, but I never got to really see its full potential as a closeted lesbian teenager, too afraid of things so close to home. As an adult trans man I have a new found love for home, helped in part by this zine.
Not sold online
2. I Found a Way to Make You Cry by Eva Monxy
A zine exploring our relationships with crying, whether it’s tears of joy or sadness, and how you can experience different kinds of tears and attribute them to different moods or music or situations. It comes with a killer track listing of all the songs Eva Monxy (creator) crys to and what each song means to them. It’s a beautiful look at a natural phenomenon that we often pay little attention to.
Not sold online ; https://www.queerzinelibrary.com/news/behind-the-zines-eva-monxy
3. Happy alone and Other Stories by Seleena Daye
Happy Alone is made by one of my best friends and zine heroes and even though we share everything from our deepest darkest feelings to My Chemical Romance fan theories, it’s amazing how much goes unsaid in friendships. Reading this zine felt like I’d been given permission to read my friend’s personal diary. Perzines do that, they make you feel trusted to sift through someone’s most private thoughts whether you know them or not. The zine talks about coming out as asexual later in life, struggling to identify with the term ‘queer’, not feeling queer enough, platonic friendships, and intersections of race and class.
4. 性/別 by Kaitlin Chan
A beautiful illustrated zine about gender and relationships. I love how in just a few panels this zine shows some of the exhaustion queer people feel when relationships are misread as friendships, when partners are misgendered, when outing yourself or labelling your relationship becomes exhausting work, and that feeling of pure helplessness which comes with those daily interactions.When you don’t feel seen by others it feels validating to be seen by this zine.
5. Red Hanky Panky by Rachael House
Red Hanky Pank was the first queer zine I read in the 90s. It felt so special, so secret, so cool to get this through my letterbox. Growing up queer in a small town, not yet out, no friends, and badly bullied, zines were lifesavers. In lieu of what the internet would later become, zines were a physical tangible presence to hold onto. Zines said don’t worry there are more of us out there, zines said you aren’t weird. In a time of section 28 zines said this is what sex and relationships and crushes can feel like. Red Hanky Panky had comics about
being bisexual, being feminist, being radical, being queer, and being punk and it felt like the most exciting thing in the world.
Not sold online ; http://www.rachaelhouse.com/fanzines.php
Rosalie Schweiker ; rosalieschweiker.info ; @rosalieschweiker
Rosalie Schweiker is a conceptual artist who uses social exchanges such as conversations, economic transactions and jokes to find new functions for art in society.
PIZ5 features children’s drawings on a particular topic, e.g. time or dressing up or nature. It was started in 2012 by Anna Albisetti und Emanuel Tschumi. It’s for children who live in a certain area of the city of Zurich and they can submit their drawings into special letterboxes or local day-care centres. The magazine is sold in local shops and bookshops. The kid’s drawings are mind blowing. The whole magazine is very simple but beautifully designed, with the kid’s drawings given centre stage.
2. Migrant Zine Collective
I’ve never held one of their zines in my hand, because I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I follow them on instagram for their great meme and other content. It’s a good example I think of how it’s often not so much about the physical zine but the community that you’re creating with publishing.
3. The Fat Activist Vernacular by Charlotte Cooper
Such a classic, it had to be on my list. It’s about being fat and it’s very funny, nothing and nobody is safe from Charlotte. She is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met and I wish there was more of her intelligence and humour in activism. I have the original zine at home but it’s now also an online publication.
4. Angry Time by Anja Lückenkemper and Anna Dobrucki with drawings from Anna McCarthy
I have lost the zine but I remember reading it a lot a few years ago and loving the illustrations. It’s good to have something that’s angry about working conditions (in the arts and other jobs) instead of the usual lean-in-self-optimising stuff.
5. Local Angrej by Aleesha Nandhra
A zine about being neither this nor that, in between and at home and a stranger at the same time. I love Aleesha’s work. Everything she does is so considered and clever and gives me great joy.
daikon* ; daikon.co.uk ; @daikon.zine
daikon* is a creative and political platform for women, non-binary and all trans people in the Southeast and East Asian diaspora.
1. Evolution of a Race Riot by Mimi Nguyen
Evolution of a race riot is a poc zine (mostly Asian American/ mixed race people) from the 90s edited by Mimi Nguyen that challenged the whiteness of the punk scene. It was the first poc zine I read that really changed me because I’d never seen/head/read Asian people/mixed race people be so assertive and angry about racism and sexism before. Mimi’s introduction to the zine is a highlight for me, she’s so unapologetically angry and until I read it I didn’t know I was allowed to be angry.
2. Dysphoria Diarrhoea, by Aki Hassan
This is a zine by our friend Aki (one half of Power Couple Press) who we met when we were in Glasgow for Glasgow Zine Fest. We picked it because we feel it encapsulates the sticky and stifling feelings of dysphoria in both a beautiful and visceral way.
3. Memoirs of a Queer Hapa, by Jackie Wang
Before she was writing tomes on Carceral Capitalism, Jackie Wang made punk zines! We picked ‘Memoirs of a Queer Hapa’ which mixes personal narratives with more essayistic work. We picked it because it felt like quite a familiar journey – for many second generation diasporic people, there can be a feeling of ungroundedness or in-betweenness and a desire for community that can often be found in zines.
4. Settler Sexuality: An Indigenous Feminist Zine
We picked up this zine last summer at Decolonise Fest, brought along by a really great punk band called Weedrat (check them out!). It’s a really important challenge to current formulations of queerness, centering an indigenous perspective and anti-colonial knowledges.
Explicitly formatted to print yourself and distribute!
5. QTIPOC Assemble by Jacob V. Joyce
This zine features 11 QTIPOC answering the question ‘if you had a super power to fight white supremacist, ableist, hetro-patriarchal capitalism what would it be?’ We love this zine for its radical imagination and Jacob’s amazing illustrations!