Emergency #5: The Ocean and the Hills

Review by Sentaniz Palmer:

I began reading this zine with some trepidation.  I have to admit, I judged this zine by its cover with the artistic but dark looking bottle and “deep” quote and the skeletons on the back cover.  But once I started reading, I didn’t want to put this one down!  “Emergency” is a perzine, with a political tone and at times a nostalgic feel, but it is written so well and touches on topics that are very emotional but easy to relate to.  After some research, I found out that the author of this zine, Ammi Keller, aka “Ammi Emergeny” is the Nancy Packer Lecturer in Continuing Studies at Stanford!

Ammi uses a lot of metaphors like broken glass and the shards left over, going to war, and sidewalks to illustrate how she feels about her life and the things going on around her.  The zine is told in a two-part split format where each section includes “The Ocean” and “The Hills.”  Ammi mentions her time spent in New Orleans, but most of the zine is written about a time in her life when she was living in New York City.  She also recalls her East Coast suburban upbringing, and reminisces about some of her past in California.  She speaks on the subject of living in different places by saying “in New Orleans I’m a square, but in New York I’m a full blown eccentric.”

This zine is at times thoughtful, dark, depressing, funny, and informative.  This is one of the few zines I’ve read that actually made me think for a while after I put it down and reflect on my own life.  I feel that the descriptions provided by Ammi were true and yet I had never thought of these exact examples before.  There were a few times when I thought that she was trying to be too “deep,” which just made it seem kind of corny, but this was not the norm.  In this zine, you will meet many of the colorful characters in Ammi’s life, who she admits often act more like characters than people.  She adds some music, movie and book reviews in between the stories, which also include stories within themselves.  Throughout the issue, there are sparsely distributed pictures, clip art, drawings, and borders of different textures such as brick and fabric.  I was too interested in the words to really notice any of the physical characteristics of this zine though.  Ammi writes about growing old, responsibility, identity, gender, moving, and belonging.  She explains her childhood and constantly mentions that it sounds like she was a privileged little girl, but that in fact that was not the case; she does admit that she was exceedingly normal and had an uneventful upbringing in middle-class suburbia, and maybe because of this she has always searched for a place to belong.

-Sentaniz Palmer

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Review by Mila Monroe:
Vampires, monsters, and drag shows. Not exactly the type of things you would use to personify or describe gender. Yet Ammi Emergency isn’t afraid to think out of the box in her zine, Emergency #5: The Ocean and the Hills, and enjoys sharing her revolutionary thoughts with readers. Ammi seems to question generally accepted norms like gender throughout the zine as she pans back and forth between her constant move from New Orleans to New York City and frequently looks backwards to her repressed teen-age years.

“There is constant traffic between desires,” a quote repeated throughout the text, points out an ongoing woman v. self, internal conflict throughout the zine. Trying to accept the fact that she is becoming an adult, deciding what her gender is, and switching back and forth between an activist and a defeated person are just a few conflicts that we see zinester Ammi go through in “Emergency.”  Although “Emergency #5” has a pessimistic tone about the narrators never-ending poverty, her self-destructive friends, and our country’s corrupt government, in the end it reminds us how resilient we, as humans, can be, by saying, “But cliffs continually rise up to meet us or fall away beneath us, and we find a way across. We do it. We do it all the time.”

-Mila Monroe

Review by Tori MacManus
In the time I had, I was only able to make it through about half of this zine, but next time I get a chance to sit down and read a zine, this will certainly be my first choice. The author discusses many issues faced by both the LGBTQ population and everyone else through book reviews, movie reviews, odd little anecdotes about her friends and housemates, and actual direct discussions of the topics in question. For instance, she uses a movie review to reflect on the suicide of a friend and the disturbing moment of realization of our own mortality. She uses a drag show created by her and her friends to demonstrate the difficulty of defining gender and gender roles, even in such situations. (From this story, I actually learned a new personal pronoun – ze.)

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