Nicole Nemergut, social studies teacher at the Calhoun School in NYC, and the students from her zine-making class will be sharing the fruits of their labor with us at Zinefest this Saturday! Most of the responses to this interview are from Nicole, except for 2a, from Chiara Wood, junior at Calhoun School. Here’s what they have to say:
I teach Social Studies at the Calhoun School. I mostly teach World History, but we have a great project called October Session, where we suspend normal classes for a week and students and teachers have an opportunity to study something that interests them intensively. I offered a class on zines. I turned into a really excited women’s space with students from all grades.
2. How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone?
When I was in high school I tried to get my friends to make a zine with me. We talked about it a lot and planned everything we would write, but we never actually did it. Later I worked on our college zine called The Catalyst. That was a really great group zining project and slowly began to make my own zines.
2a. (Answered by Chiara) How did you come to collect zines? Why are they important to your collection?
My zine making teacher, Nicole, took my zine class to Bluestockings bookstore in NYC’s lower east side. This bookstore closely resembles the feminist bookstore in Portlandia, with a bowl of carrots behind the counter and a huge zine library. I stood by the shelves flipping through zine after zine, even after my legs were very tired. After a half hour I had picked out my favorite 5. I have returned to the library many times to pick up more. Zines are important to my collection because they remind me that I, too, have the power to create work and share it with the world. They are also very easy to relate to, so when I feel like shit I can just read some zines and know that I am not the only one.
3. What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?
Feminist zine making is about content, but also form. My first experience with actually making zines was a wildly collaborative and inclusive process. In this sense when we’re thinking about doing or practicing feminism this process provided a great model. We had to negotiate what to include, how to represent ourselves and contributors, how do deal with conflict. So, zine making was a really important feminist praxis for me. Feminisms also explicitly appear in zines that I’ve worked on. I worked on a zine with the NYC Anarchist People of Color Womyn’s Collective and we wrote about food politics.Though not explicitly about women, as a women’s collective talking about food and reproductive labor, feminism emerged as a central organizing theme. My personal zines are about telling my stories and the stories of my family. These are feminist narratives because they place women’s voices and agency at the center. As a history teacher this is a really democratic way of doing history and something I wish were more present in my own curricula.
4. What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?
I love zines that are very carefully crafted and have a lot of attention to printing, binding and details. Mine are not.
5. If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?
This maybe says more about my cooking style, but it would probably be something like a blender. I have one and it only gets used once in awhile, but I’m really into while I’m doing it. Like when I go on a green smoothie kick for a week.