Interview with a Zinester: Cassandra L!

Zine creator Cassandra L. of Second Hand Emotion offered up these answers for the zine fest. Check out their misandrist musings over on Twitter @feministrevenge!

Smiling Cassandra in red lipstick with her hand on her shoulder wearing a necklace that reads Trust No Man.
Smiling Cassandra in red lipstick with her hand on her shoulder wearing a necklace that reads Trust No Man.

Kindly give us a short description of yourself and the work you do.

My name’s Cassandra and the zine I’m working on is called Second Hand Emotion. It’s a perzine about the anxiety I have around romantic relationships, and how it’s informed by my upbringing, race, class, gender, depression, and so on. While this first one is a perzine, and I’m definitely looking to write more for #2, I’m also looking for contributions going forward! I have a sense of what I’m looking for but I would also love people to pitch me!

I’m also a contributor to On Struggling, a comp zine for POC to discuss survival in a capitalist culture that’s by Monica of Brown and Proud Press, and Hoax, a comp zine on feminisms in everyday life by the amazing rachel and sari.  In addition, I’m working on two other zine projects. One is on my relationship with my mother and assimilating in America called STUCK, and another one is a sillier project on my life in retail, selling chocolate to rich people, but also it’ll have SERIOUS STUFF about labor, low-wage work, chocolate and gender. I’m hoping once I finish this zine I won’t be so scared of the process and work on having that zine ready right away. I haven’t been working at the chocolate shop for a little under a year so I don’t want that to stagnate.

How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone?

My intro to zines feels both current (because people are still making zines and DIY media today) and retrospective because we’re very much in a moment of nostalgia for ’90s cultural formats and subcultures. In the summer of 2012 I was an intern for the Feminist Press, and one of the projects my fellow intern, Sam Huber, was working on was The Riot Grrrrl Collection (which is much of the current zine collection at NYU’s Fales Collection). I became interested in zines and riot grrrl through that project he would help scan, but it was very much after the fact, and in zines as cultural artifacts. At the same time, I was volunteering at Bluestockings, so I was very aware that zines were still a thing people were currently making. Near the end of my term, before I lost my access to NYC for a while because I was cash-poor, I bought The Zinester’s Guide to NYC and through there, I got in touch with Barnard’s zine librarian, Jenna Freedman. For a few weekends, she let me browse the stacks on my days off, and that’s how I became familiar with zines like cocoa puss, slant (now named slander), and pink sugar heart attack. I also read bikini kill and a bunch of old BUSTs from back before it became a glossy (it was way better then!).

Then I started going to mini-zine fests, and that’s how I learned about Kate Wadkins’ work on International Girl Gang Underground, and I started using Twitter and Tumblr around the same time, and I sort of compiled my knowledge of current zinesters, like the Slice Harvester‘s blog. The POC Zine Project was just getting started around that time, and that’s how I learned about current zinesters of color like Osa Atoe, Anna Vo, and Suzy X. Then, one of my friends, Jamie V., (who I only knew via Twitter at that point) posted a submission deadline for Hoax on her feed and I just wrote and sent something out quickly right away. Even though that was accepted right away and I’ve been submitting ever since, it took a long time for me to consider myself a zinester.

I wanted to make my own zines, but there was a certain level of intimidation for me, particularly with laying things out and getting things right aesthetically. I think part of it is just that I’m a huge snob about it and I have a certain expectation about what something I should put out into the world should look like. But part of zine culture that I need to embrace is that imperfectionism. I feel like zines encompass the ethos that it’s more important to put something out there than to deprive the world of it because of fears that it’s not “completely perfect.”  I want to hold myself to that as I continue to work on my zine.

What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?

In a global sense, I think zine making can inherently be read a feminist project because the ethos of zines is to highlight marginalized narratives that don’t necessarily have an outlet anywhere else. And it seems like a lot of the zines I read prioritize processing and self-care, which I believe are feminist projects in a world where we are told to sacrifice ourselves and not to overthink anything, lest we be categorized as the wrong type of woman. However, I know that motivation doesn’t guide all zine projects (#NotAllZines, amirite) and even zine culture prioritizes bodies that are privileged in our larger culture.

Maybe it’s because of how I was introduced through zines (both riot grrrl and critiques of riot grrrl), or how I started writing in zines, by contributing to a feminist comp zine, but I’ve always thought of my work in zines as feminist because I was both writing as a self-identified feminist and I was always trying to inquire my relationship to liberal white feminism’s dictates of what we should believe (like uncritical sex-positivity, or uncritical recruitment of men in feminist movements). I happen to believe critical inquiry of the status quo is at the heart of feminist praxis.

What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?

I’m really glad this question was asked because I have so many zine crushes, and one of the things I like about zines is that they’re really intertextual, referencing cultural moments and aesthetics. I really like Osa Atoe’s shotgun seamstress. I really love her collages and use of big, bold block letters. It’s just a really unapologetic; it declares, “I am here.” I am also a huge fan of Suzy X’s Mallgoth series. I like that everything is archival – her old photos, anime sketches, and songs. It reminds me of how important it is to keep that stuff, and it’s a reminder that our histories as women of color are important and deserve to be preserved. I feels like it’s speaking to a lot of different projects, like the fashion blog Of Another Fashion, which archives historical photos of people of color and shatters the idea that only white folks dressed fancy for pleasure and enjoyed their bodies as young people.

There’s also a zine called Methods of Self-Care I may borrow heavily from in terms of formatting. I don’t think it’s a text-heavy zine, but in our TL;DR society most people would probably read it as a “text-heavy” zine. And they use typography as art in a way, using block quotes, etc. I was thinking I might do the same thing too, since my zine will likely be artwork-light this go around (aside from my selfies).

If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?

It would be a manual can opener, because slow and steady wins the race, and hopefully, once it opens it’s bubbling over with goodness.

Finally, who are some of the other zinesters you’re excited to see at this year’s feminist zine fest?

I don’t know who is tabling at FZF this year, but it’d be great to see a lot of my friends from the zine community, since we all have lives and don’t get to see each other that frequently. I’d like to see Suzy X, since she’s planning on releasing a third issue of her perzine Malcriada, and I’d like to catch up with Rachel and Sari if I can. I also hope Midge Blitz tables again because I really love her feminist crafts, as well as her perzine.


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