Category Archives: zines

Zine Round-Up: African American Vegetarianism and Eco-Friendly Feminine Hygiene

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Multnomah County Library is one of the two library systems I currently use the most. Recently I found myself at the Holgate branch, one of the two branches within two miles of my house, and the bins of zines near the front entrance caught my eye. Multnomah County Library is possibly the only major city library with a sizeable zine collection (at least I’m not finding any others…chime in below if you know of others!). The collection is spread across six libraries, and they’re even patrons of mine—the library collection includes Beyond the Gate (which seems to be a fairly popular circulating title!) and another zine I contributed to a few years ago.

Naturally it was difficult to leave the library without something to take home and read, so I quickly snapped up eight titles. Two of them really stood out for me.

Real Talk Vol. 1: African American Communities and Vegetarianism
This zine encourages African Americans to work toward vegetarianism. The author begins by outlining the life expectancy rates of African Americans compared to their caucasian counterparts, and discusses some misconceptions about the history of traditional or “soul food.” She offers up some personal history, but the facts do most of the work, including a price comparison per pound of various sources of protein. The zine is sparsely illustrated, so the author can pack in as much information (and recipes!) as possible.

I’m not African American, but I have been vegetarian since 1994, and this zine seemed like an earnest effort by the author. (Unfortunately, the author did not include his or her name on the work.)

Green Blooded: An Introduction to Eco-Friendly Feminine Hygiene
Discovering the invention of menstrual cups in 2005 was an important turning point in my life—embarrassingly so. Riding a bike while wearing a pad wasn’t the most comfortable thing, so I’d just consider my bike off limits for a few days each month. Before late 2010, I believed that people just didn’t know about menstrual cups, or just didn’t talk about them. Imagine then, how amazed I was when Mooncups were a frequent conversation topic among my MPub classmates in BC! (Sadness: since moving back to the US, I find that it’s still a semi-taboo topic here…)

In Green Blooded, Cathy Leamy has written a short but entertaining piece about the variety of feminine hygiene products that you probably don’t know about. They’re far more eco-friendly than the things you can get at the grocery store, and way more pocketbook friendly. The illustrations are educational, fun, and at least once, a little gross. But the publication has great potential to reach people that may be otherwise missed…and for that reason, I’m quite excited about having discovered this zine.
(Order Green Blooded here!)

Speaking of Mooncups, it turns out that the best menstrual cup company is virtually unheard of in my country, because another company holds the registration to that name in the US (and with it, they make an inferior product and have abysmal customer service). Now I am a happier user of a Mooncup, ordered and delivered for a reasonable price from the UK. Here’s a great rap battle video they released last year:

Have you read any good zines lately? Let us know what they are in the comments!


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Over the past several months I’ve noticed that comics and graphic novels are becoming a significant part of my reading list. Part of me wants to argue that it’s not really reading at all, since it’s fun and I can get through a whole book in just a few hours. However that part of me usually gets stuffed into a dark closet by the other part, which is having a lot of fun discovering all this great work that only takes a few hours to read.

One of my favorite recent reads has been Hark! A Vagrant, a compilation of the best web comics by Kate Beaton. One of my favorite comics looks at the Brontë sisters. Brainy, witty, and starring many historical figures, I feel like if I was a comic, it would be this one. Dani, one of my MPub classmates, turned me on to the series. And then she went on to intern for Drawn and Quarterly, the book’s publisher!

Since 2004 I’ve been reading The Complete Peanuts, an ambitious series released by Fantagraphics in Seattle. They’re publishing two volumes a year (in May and November), each of which contains two years worth of Peanuts strips by Charles Schulz. I fell behind in reading the series for a couple of years while I had a stressful job and no downtime, but just a couple days ago I finished the most recent release, 1983-1984. One of the things I enjoy about reading the series is to see how the strip evolved over time—how characters were drawn differently in the early years, reading the first appearance of things closely associated with the strip (football, anyone?), and encountering really obscure characters like the kid named  555 95472 (“5” for short) or tennis rivals Molly Volley and Crybaby Boobie. Now and again the books also give just a glimmer of the immense amount of historical research that has gone into producing the series, and of course that fans the flames of my heart almost as much as Snoopy does.

Another delightful read recommended to me by my friend Dana was Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. This is another Drawn and Quarterly title, of course, it is exponentially easier for Canadians to get into North Korea than any American. In the book, Delisle offers up a travelogue that communicates his alienation while in North Korea, while he was almost never alone. He mediates on North Korean culture, pointing out amazing things—some that strike awe in the reader, some that leave us to chuckle. Reading this book showed me what I’d like to do with the Canada zine I’ve been quietly percolating about the last year—but given how poorly I draw, I suspect there will be no wildly popular Bookish Comics in my future. (Although I suppose if I could draw one thing and just recycle it, I’d be in business, like Dinosaur Comics.)

Here are a couple more random comics I’ve enjoyed quite a bit as of late. Today’s Sheldon Comics features an infographic about why novels are the size they are. An older comic that I’ve seen circulating around the internet quite a bit this week about lesser-known editing and proofreading marks was drawn by someone I know. And of course I love Roz Chast, who had a piece in The New Yorker this week about life before the internet.

Given all these great discoveries, I’ve also put Persepolis on hold at the library, and hope to do the same with The Zen of Steve Jobs, which I noticed earlier this week when inside a comic book shop.

It seems that many of my discoveries have been through recommendations by other people. So, reader, tell me: which comic do you think is worth a read?

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“Beyond the Gate” Now at Multnomah County Library!

Quite by accident, this morning I discovered that I am listed on WorldCat, a worldwide database of library holdings that are often used to secure interlibrary loans. Now, in order to be listed on WorldCat, you need to be held in a library…

And that’s how I discovered that Multnomah County Library has eight copies of my zine, Beyond the Gate: An Ethnic History of Portland’s Chinatown and Nihonmachi. And as of this morning, four of the seven circulating copies were marked as either checked out or recently returned. Whoa!

That’s right, I’m held in one of the highest circulating libraries in the United States. No autographs, please!

The larger mystery is how the library got eight copies—it sure wasn’t through me. Right before I left for Canada last August I dropped off a single copy at Central for their zine librarians to peruse, thinking if they were interested they’d contact me about obtaining more copies. I never heard a peep.

This could explain why my zine keeps selling so well at Reading Frenzy. The listing dropped off the Powell’s database several months ago, and I assumed this was because it hadn’t sold—but perhaps they all sold at once, to one person! I’ve sent an email to inquire what I can. Perhaps the librarians navigated to this blog, saw where they could pick one up without hassle, and took a walk on their lunch break.

It’s a real mystery, and I plan on solving it. It might require some legwork that can’t be done until I’m back in Portland, but that’s only a couple of weeks away. (Sure, I could email the zine librarian—but where’s the fun in that?)

Another take-away from this discovery: I’d better get cracking on producing my second title!

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Bicycling Buffalo Soldiers

Since I am both Bookish and Bikish, every so often something will pop up that requires deliberation about which blog is more appropriate. Blogging about bike books: more bookish, or more bikish? Should I be cross-posting? Do I need a policy, or can my policy for the moment be dictated by my whimsy? Thoughts? At least for now I think I’ll post here, since Bookish gets more traffic (hello, spambots!) and Bikish is still finding its audience.

This summer I’ve been living in Missoula, MT, interning the the publications department at Adventure Cycling Association. My internship is now officially over, but I’m wrapping up a couple of projects—including a short film that will be featured as the last blog post of my series “Backstories,” about bike history.

Adventure Cycling is certainly a cool piece of Missoula’s bike culture, but in my opinion, not the coolest. Earlier this summer Atticus and I spent a day at Fort Missoula and learned that Missoula was home to the 25th Infantry, a group of African American soldiers. In the late 1890s, the unit was tasked with experimenting with the newfangled safety bicycle to assess it for military use.

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has embraced the unique story they can claim that no other Army fort is able to. One section of the exhibits is dedicated to the bicycling soldiers, and include an interactive that puts visitors on a bike with 75 pounds of gear. In the store, the museum sells T-shirts and magnets with “Fred E. Fox,” a bicycling soldier. For those who are curious beyond the artifacts and interactives that the museum exhibits have to offer, the museum sells a booklet (really, more of a zine) explaining the experiments in more detail.

It’s a quick read, but satisfied this cyclist’s thirst to know more. Contextual information was included about how the 25th Infantry was formed, and how Missoula was a hospitable place for the group compared to other towns. While the unit did different types of experiments with the bikes (formation work, long-distance travel, and front line message delivery), the booklet focused mostly on their long-distance travel, even though it seemed like the least successful experiment.

The soldiers embarked upon three trips: a short trip from Fort Missoula to Seeley Lake; a longer trip from Fort Missoula to Fort Yellowstone; and an epic journey from Fort Missoula to Missouri. The challenges increased the longer the distance traveled, and the booklet outlines problems stemming primarily from the lack of good roads in the United States. Unfortunately though, before the good roads movement made any headway, the soldiers’ next trip was cancelled due to the unit being sent to fight in the Spanish-American war. (Why were they deployed first? The theory was African American soldiers were not as susceptible to the tropical diseases in the Philippines as caucasian soldiers would be. Not true!)

Eventually the unit was transferred out of Fort Missoula and into a more racially-charged community in Texas. What led to the unit being disbanded was a sad shot of historic reality in what was otherwise an inspirational and intriguing story. No spoilers, though—you’ll have to read it for yourself.

Can’t make it to Fort Missoula but you’d like to read more? Here’s “The Bicycling Buffalo Soldiers,” an article that appeared in Adventure Cyclist earlier this year. Don’t forget—you can also get the booklet via interlibrary loan through your local library!

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Recent Writings

Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing some writing.

Recently I finished a piece for Taking the Lane, a zine put together by my friend Elly Blue. It’ll appear in the third issue, which should be released later this spring. The piece shares the story of some pretty amazing women cyclists in the 1800s. Elly seems pretty excited about it, and that makes me pretty excited too. After all—bikes, history, and feminism are three of my favorite subjects. On a related note, it’s looking like I might be interning at a bike magazine this summer, fingers crossed.

Also, one of my classes this semester requires us to post all our presentations and papers online. Last night, after a week of scrambling and fretting, I posted a paper about what Google’s “information monopoly” could mean for ebooks and publishers. It’s not a very good paper, but it does have a LOLcats if you make it to the end, and it can help cure insomnia.

We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled format one of these days…

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Culture Shock!

It has been just over a month since I moved to Vancouver BC, and culture shock has been a constant companion.

Experts say that the first stage of culture shock is a honeymoon period, filled with joy and wonder as you explore your new country. Unfortunately I was abruptly catapulted past that stage when my rented UHaul mysteriously disappeared less than 12 hours after I arrived in Vancouver. (It had been towed: it was too close to a fire hydrant which was set back from the curb on an unlit corner, impossible to have seen in the dark when we parked it.)

Combined with the frenetic pace of the program I entered and leftover stuff from home, it has been a rough month. Desperate cries for help on Facebook have resulted in people coming out of the woodwork with supportive messages and open ears, which have all been very helpful. My mom even sent me a T-shirt that is everywhere in Portland, but never meant much to me until I got to BC (left).

A few weeks ago while chatting with my travel-savvy friend Debbie on Skype, I started mentioning some of the strange random cultural issues that had been popping up. Amused, she suggested I keep a list and then write a zine about it.

Turning negatives into a positive seemed like a great idea, so I’m excited to announce my next zine project will be just that! The tentative title is: “I’m a Stupid American: My Adventures in Canada and the Backwardness I Found I Had There.” Right now I’ve got a running list of about 26 items ranging from small differences to humorous anecdotes, but I imagine at some point I’ll want to write a narrative to encapsulate the larger experience. Perhaps I’ll also produce a companion piece about the “reverse culture shock” the experts say I’ll get upon returning home.

Don’t expect to see this project being pulled together until December at the earliest, and possibly not until Summer 2011 or later. The program I’m in is already kicking my butt, and I’m only four weeks in!

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Beyond the Gate: Available NOW!

After several months of unintentional delay, I am pleased to announce my inaugural zine is available for purchase!

Beyond the Gate: An Ethnic History of Portland’s Nihonmachi and Chinatown offers a walking tour of Portland’s Chinatown neighborhood, guiding readers through major periods in neighborhood and national history.

Visitors and Oregon residents alike will discover why the neighborhood was originally named Nihonmachi, what event forced most residents to move away, and the slow rebirth that followed.

Beyond the Gate is now in stock at Powell’s and Reading Frenzy. It will eventually be offered at The Welcome Mat and other fine retailers.

Interested in snagging a copy? Submit a comment and I’ll get back to you via email.


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