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

Things I’ve Lost, Things I’ve Found

things ive found

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

1999


This zine is set up as a comic book and follows the story of one man, Mark, and his love for his married co-worker, Nora. Set in the last few months of 1999, Mark is suffering from the Y2K paranoia that swept across the world as fears of apocalyptic destruction became rampant. The zine effectively shows Mark’s depression as a “loser, a college drop-out, with no prospects,” and how he feels about his dead-end job at a “sub shop with cockroaches.” I really liked this story—especially the brief pop-culture references that were scattered throughout (I about fell out of my chair at the BackStreet Boys montage in the middle of the zine. Hilarious!). While it is undeniably graphic in some places (reader, beware), it’s very, very funny and a great read.
–Theodore Grahams

Wait 5 minutes, it will change


I picked up this zine because of its title: “Wait 5 minutes, it will change.” This is a common saying in New Orleans in reference to the erratic weather patterns, and as a New Orleans native, I found this to be very compelling. A letter from the zine creator—with an apt instruction to “Start Here”—greets the reader when they open the zine, declaring that the works within are dedicated to the “two-year commemoration of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast, and to the city of New Orleans.” Lewis Wallace, the creator, tries to explain the two themes of the zine: New Orleans reconstruction and life as a trans person. While I loved both themes in themselves, I was hard pressed to see the connection between the two subjects throughout the zine. It seemed as if the pieces were written with no intention of being displayed next to each other. Overall, though, I enjoyed the writing and the use of mixed media—photography, maps, poetry, and prose—and I was greatly moved by the works presented within this piece.

–Theodore Grahams

Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon (Coloring Book)

When I have kids, I am definitely finding them a copy of this coloring book! Each picture comes with a caption that messes with gender stereotypes, as if the pictures don’t do enough. My personal favorite is the picture of the little boy dressed as Wonder Woman with the caption “Not every little boy wants to be Superman when he grows up.” Or the wedding cake with two brides and the caption “Marriage is so gay.” I was so hard to not pull out my colored pencils, but I wanted to save that experience for someone who actually checked this out of the library.

After all the coloring pictures, there is a little gender quiz/survey with questions such as: “What is gender?” “How many genders are there?” “In what ways do you feel confined or restricted by your assigned gender?” “Was the gender assigned to you the one you feel most excited about?” “What are you ideas for gender liberation?” I guess this is sort of the “adult part” for after you’ve finished coloring. These questions definitely make you think, though, especially after coloring.

Tori McManus

Adrift


This short zine, illustrated in shades of blue and gray, is told almost entirely in pictures. This is a comic-style (well, actually more like a children’s picture book) zine only has two lines of dialogue: “Oh, man. I am SO lost.” These words, depicted next to a picture of a scruffy man who is adrift in a raft in the ocean, are the opening lines of the zine. From then on, the man, who is hoping to be saved, is attacked by a shark, losing part of his raft in the battle. He fights the shark back, and the shark is then consumed by a giant squid. It is implied that (in the mind of the shark) the man is the reason for the shark’s death. Once the shark is overtaken, the squid then attempts to eat the scruffy, lost man. The squid doesn’t get far, though; he is beaten up by the man. While the man doesn’t get far in defending himself against the squid, a killer whale comes along and defeats the squid. Like the shark, the squid thinks that the man is the reason for his demise. Finally, the killer whale faces the man, and tries to help him get to safety. Ironically, the killer whale is the nicest animal, but the man thinks that his death is surely imminent. In an attempt to save his life, the man punches the whale in the snout, and the whale (poor whale!) swims off to cry alone. Finally, the man spies a boat and is rescued by a group of men. Telling the men on the boat of his trials, the man soon realizes that his saviors are whale poachers. Feeling badly about the whale, he leads the men in the opposite direction of the animal, and hops off the boat. The whale finds him, and the man and whale swim off into the sunset; happy. I like this zine. And while it took a few read-throughs to really get the narrative (it’s hard, since there are no words, and the pictures aren’t really descriptive enough to make a clear sense of story), it was enjoyable. The illustrations are superb, and it was a fun story to get into.

–Theodore Grahams

Mrs. Noggle #21

This zine caught my eye because of the unusual title. It is written by a 32 year-old woman named Jolie, who writes, does art, performs spoken word, and works in factory. She is married to Jamie Noggle – hence the name of the zine. She has been making zines for 15 years, which I think is very impressive, but this is the first zine that has made it past issue number 20. This zine is a look into the daily life and thoughts of Jolie, and includes poems, journal entries from her blogs, and retro pictures of 50s-style housewives. The downside to this zine is that the author’s writing style can be somewhat distracting or hard to follow at times. She is not a fan of capitalization, uses punctuation creatively, and likes to write with a stream of consciousness that is not always divided into paragraphs. There are lots of words on the page. If you don’t mind these things, this is a quick and entertaining read. I enjoy zines like this because I like reading short, personal glimpses into other people’s lives, thoughts, and musings. Mrs. Noggle’s entries run the gamut from ranting about drama at work to divulging her fears and insecurities to admitting that she does not want to have a baby. All in all, I would recommend this zine because it is a surprise on every page.

-Sentaniz Palmer