I’ve wanted to pick up Julia Eff’s zines for a while now. Pioneers Press are always mentioning Julia (they published Julia’s poetry chapbook Wastelands, which I also can’t wait to read), so I ran over to Crapandemic, Julia’s online store, and clicked Purchase on six of their zines. Every Thug Is a Lady and All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues (seriously, how great are those titles?) are a longer zines, so I will give those individual reviews, but I also ordered four mini-zines (folded down to 1/8 of a regular sheet of paper)–The World Is Big Enough Without You, Brothers and Sisters I Am an Atomic Bomb, I Was a Teenage Satanist, and Let’s Wreck Their Precious Perfect Little Town.
The title of that last one really encapsulates the theme of all four. Julia was born and raised in a nowhere small town in rural Michigan, and has feelings about it. I grew up in a trailer park, farm houses, and small towns, so the angst and frustration they express in these zines is something I really relate to. It’s not all angst though–Julia does talk about missing the feeling of being in a small town, the way your outsider status and weirdness became a marker of identity, the way the town’s stubborn squareness was something to rage against. Also, it cannot be denied, there are charms to these settings. Julia writes about walking across town to a friend’s house and walking right in because their door is unlocked, about buying shitty gas station coffee and walking into the woods to drink it, about the dream of hosting a zine fest in such a town to give the weird kids an outlet and a community and confuse the hell out of the locals.
In I Was a Teenage Satanist, Julia writes about their vain attempts to get out of prayer- and religion-themed assignments in their public high school English classes (our town’s high school still has a prayer during graduation, flagrantly illegal and totally unchallenged). Their father, who raised Julia atheist, tried to challenge the assignments, but the teacher claimed atheism was not a valid religion, so the work couldn’t be challenged as against their religion. Julia went one step farther and began claiming to follow Satan, but the teacher didn’t give that any credence either. Alas.
These zines are, as I said, very small, though creatively laid out to hold a good amount of content on their single, 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. Once unfolded, one side of each zine contains a collage of clever, themed artwork, while the other side, once refolded, holds the text of each zine. Pay attention to how it unfolds, because I proved to be about as competent at folding these back into the correct page order as the patrons at the library where I work are at reassembling the newspapers when they’re done with them (hint: they’re really bad at reassembling the newspapers when they’re done with them).
You need to read Julia Eff’s stuff, because Julia is funny, intelligent, honest, and a lot of fun. Also, kind. When I got my order in the mail, Julia had written me a really nice, personal note, and it felt like getting something from a friend rather than just something I bought online. This is what makes the zine scene so fucking cool.