A Review of Julia Eff’s zine All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

cowboysI’ve been working my way through all of Julia Eff’s excellent zines in the last few months, and I’ve enjoyed them all. A few weekends ago I read All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues, and it’s my favorite so far. It’s so well-written, and so strongly felt, so raw.

In All the Best, Julia writes about their mother, an unbalanced woman who ran out on her family and went about physically, verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abusing Julia in the following years. What Julia endured for the second half of their childhood is incredible, and especially considering the early years were so relatively happy. They begin the zine by describing what their early childhood was like: baking in the kitchen, their hippie mother spinning in peasant skirts, their home filled with the sound of riot grrrl punk and older rock. Then the bottom fell out. Their mother became an alcoholic, their parents fought–sometimes violently–and the cops became regular visitors. Their mom left, and bounced from one loser boyfriend to another. Julia’s life became a harsh split between relative happiness at their dad’s place and a living hell anytime they had to visit their mom. Their mom tried her best to poison Julia against their dad, and the scene in which Julia describes their mom’s attempts to falsely accuse Julia’s dad of sexual abuse are difficult to read.

There is a powerful chapter toward the end in which Julia imagines their mom having to face up to her wrongs after death. They describe the interminable wait in a drab office in which the only thing to read are a few issues of SELF, and then being processed by a bored bureaucrat. Finally, every single one of the abusive and hurtful things she’s done will be played on video while she watches, and she has to give an explanation for each. It’s a deeply cathartic vision, as is the final chapter in which they recall a pleasant memory with their dad.

Not all zines are created equal. I love zines, and the spirit behind them, but some of them–let’s be honest–are less than stellar from a writing standpoint. Not so with Julia Eff’s, and All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues in particular. This is a fantastic little booklet. Buy it now and thank me later.

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